We welcome back Liz Tuckwell to DEMAIN with her second [her first was A Monster Met] Short Sharp Shocks! Book 57 Scared Of Girls (with a cover by Adrian Baldwin). The ebook comes out on the 27th November but is currently available for pre-sales. As Lockdown #2 hit England, Liz and Dean sat down and talked about it.
DEMAIN PUBLISHING: Welcome Liz…let’s get down to it, what was your first introduction to the horror genre?
LIZ TUCKWELL: I think it was when I and my twin sister were eleven and we watched the 1944 film, The Uninvited, late at night on TV. I remember running out of the room screaming to our big brother who was not impressed with us. The film is really tame by today’s standards but it scared the bejesus out of me at the time. Another one that made a big impression on me even though it was decades ago, was a BBC Christmas production of M R James’ story, Lost Hearts. I’d love to see that one again.
DP: Having written an M R James inspired story recently (for Trevor Kennedy) I know what you mean about Lost Hearts…and what about your second Short Sharp Shocks!?
LT: It’s a short fantasy horror story about a sad middle-aged man with a strange phobia - he’s scared of teenage girls. He lives the life of a recluse but his problems start when a gang of teenage girls start sitting on his front garden wall and escalate from there.
DP: It’s a great little tale which we enjoyed reading. When you wrote it did you have to do much in the way of research?
LT: I didn’t have to do too much research as I have a phobia myself, so I know how I react when faced with my phobia. Also, it has a domestic setting so not much research needed there. If I need to research, I tend to use Google a lot. I will buy specialist reference books if I need to. I’m not fond of using ebooks for reference, I much prefer print copies for that.
DP: Yeap, know what you mean there…Google, a writer’s best friend, especially now with the libraries being closed…so did you find Scared Of Girls particularly difficult to write?
LT: I had the basic premise, which was inspired by a real life incident and the beginning was easy to but it took me a while to think up what the twist should be (I definitely wanted a twist) and to write that. I did have some conflicting advice on how to write the story and the main character but in the end, I ignore that and went with what I felt worked best.
DP: What does horror mean to Liz Tuckwell?
LT: I think for me, horror really means terror. I don’t like slasher films or splatterpunk or even grimdark. I prefer my horror to be more psychological. I loved the novel, The Woman in Black. I’ve also seen it twice as a play and it still made me jump the second time. I also like horror comedy such as Shaun of the Dead. I prefer my horror mixed with laughs.
DP: Mixing comedy with horror is very difficult to pull off – we used to do a lot of it in the theatre which was fun – mainly about a family called The Crumps who were based a little on Fred and Rose West. It was a very dark piece – a sit-com about serial killers. Seemed to work though and very recently we were talking to some of the actors about reviving it but perhaps in a different medium – we’ll see. Anyway, anyway – what draws readers to the horror genre do you think?
LT: I don’t think you can lump horror readers into just one category. There are so many sub-genres of horror just as there are in fantasy. Gothic horror, supernatural horror, religious horror, non-supernatural horror, splatterpunk, horror comedy, slasher horror, dark fantasy, erotic horror. While I’m sure that there are readers who will read any type of horror, there are also many who prefer a particular sub-genre. While there are tropes that readers expect, the bump in the night or isolation or characters at a low ebb, they also want good writing and plots.
DP: Yes, that’s certainly true. For a period I was very interested in dark, ‘erotic’ (well, I’m not sure it was exactly erotic when I look back at it ha ha) but I’ve moved on from that (saying that though I’ve got a couple of ideas for ‘sequels’ to pieces I wrote a few years back). I was talking to a producer recently about some horror pitches he wanted from me, I told him horror is very much a broad church and the pitches reflected that – some were very quiet but then there was one or two where a lot of people were going to suffer a lot of pain (because of the story obviously) which I’d really like to develop into full scripts. With everything going on right now would you say that our genre is affected by world events?
LT: I think the horror genre is affected by world events. For example, the number of horror stories and novels with a background of the First or Second World War, two of the most important events of the twentieth century. I’m sure there will be a number of horror stories and novels being written at the moment inspired by the Corona virus. Personally, I haven’t put world events in my work so far.
DP: It’s tempting to write about world events BUT on the flipside I think it can immediately date a piece of work…do you think (because of the virus etc etc) the horror genre is dead?
LT: I strongly disagree [with that question]. It seems to me that the horror genre is alive and well. And I think the pandemic has only made interest in horror stronger. It’s comforting to confront fears that don’t exist as compared to the real life horrors of the moment.
DP: Indeed…so what is Liz Tuckwell scared of?
LT: I am very sympathetic to the hero of my latest Short Sharp Shocks! story because I have a phobia myself, about rats and mice. I find hamsters and guinea pigs pretty difficult as well. If a show or a film comes on the TV with a scene with rats or mice in it, I either change the channel, shut my eyes or leave the room. And if one more person tells me you’re never more than six feet away from a rat in London, I shan’t be responsible for my actions. So far, I haven’t used this phobia in my work but I suspect it’s only a matter of time…
DP: I was on my morning walk earlier and (though I’m not in London right now) we saw some dead rats by the river…but let’s move on quickly! Creatively is there anything you’d like to do that you haven’t done yet? If so – what is it?
LT: I’d like to write a novel or rather publish a novel. I’ve drafted a few but not got any of them to a publishable stage as yet.
DP: Well we’d definitely be up for reading it / them when ready…so writing is a long term career for you?
LT: Hopefully. I’ve retired now so I can devote more time to writing.
DP: So, the lockdown…how did you handle #1 and now #2…[got to say it’s all a bit depressing isn’t it?]
LT: I found writing really helped with the first lockdown. It gave a focus to my days. Some of my friends have told me they got really bored but I can honestly say I was never bored. I also had a number of zoom meetings every week including writers’ groups. That also gave structure to my days. I did try to go out to have a walk most days, just to get a change of scenery, get some exercise and just see real people. Having a garden to look after, also helped. I felt so sorry for people living in flats without access to a garden. I’ll probably do much the same during the lockdown #2 although it’s hard to work up enthusiasm for going for a walk when the weather is bad. (Yes, I am a wimp.) I think I’ll have to start doing some online exercise classes.
Good for you! Always a pleasure Liz, thanks for your time. The best of luck with Scared Of Girls, Book 57 in the Short Sharp Shocks! series…
If you’d like to connect with Liz direct: