The Isis Unbound Drive-by: Allyson Bird

Allyson is the one on the left ...

Allyson Bird lives in New Zealand with her husband and youngest daughter. Occasionally she is drawn to strange places and people, and they are occasionally drawn to her. Her favourite playground, as a child and adult, has been the village graveyard. Once she wondered what would happen if she took one of the green stones from a grave. She has been looking over her shoulder ever since but has never given it back. She won the British Fantasy Society Award for Best collection 2009 for Bull Running for Girls. Her second is called Wine and Rank Poison and her first novel,  Isis Unbound’ is published December from Dark Regions Press.

1. I first knew I was a writer when …
… I sent my stories out and they began to get published. As a child I’d always wanted to become one but lacked confidence. As an adult I decided I’d live a life and then incorporate my experience of it into my own imaginary worlds. I know so much more about people now than when I was a young woman.

2. We need horror because …
… it elicits an emotional response. We need to feel. Happiness is such an odd concept for me. Occasionally I can live in the moment and experience it…perhaps at a party or when something in nature stirs me but I’ve seen too much first hand. My mother and sister after death. Surviving a fire where the children next door died and knowing the awful circumstances. Our own mortality. The evil we can do to each other. We need horror fiction to know that we can displace it away from us and can survive what is thrown at us. Defiance in the face of terror.

3. The inspiration for Isis Unbound came from …
… reading pulp fiction as a ten year old. Amongst the more salubrious titles I found Edgar Rice Burroughs and Robert E. Howard. I craved adventure and to travel to Europe and beyond. I remember reading The Warlord of Mars. I also loved reading about Gods, mythical creatures and their interaction with mortals. I remember watching the film, Jason and the Argonauts. Talos stuck in my mind whilst writing the final scene with the snake and the Minotaur in Isis Unbound. At university I studied the classics including Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein, Percy Blysshe’s Prometheus Unbound, and read much Greek, Roman and Egyptian mythology. I suspect this novel started not only out of earlier reading but from visiting Pompeii and Rome a few years ago, too.

4. Which fictional character in your own work would you like to be?
If I had to live many centuries ago…I’d like to have been as brave/accomplished/adroit as possible. Elise and ultimately Vesna are survivors. The thought of reincarnation also intrigues me.

 Elise from Bull Running

‘One of the four bulls that Elise could see turned on the spot, slipped on the cobbles, regained its footing—and came after her and the boys. The other bull runners shouted at them to get out of the way. Michael and Frantz pulled at her arms, but somehow she got away from them. One of the animals was the largest bull she had ever seen, a giant of a black bull, and it stampeded around the corner with blood on its horns from the last runner who had come across its path. As the other bulls rushed past Elise this bull stopped about thirty metres away from her, stamped its feet and bellowed. She felt the blood rush to her face as she prepared to run again. The crowds from behind the wooden barrier offered her their hands to pull her over and to safety. Elise waved her hand, shook her head and prepared to run. The crowd held their breath.

Elise ran towards the bull as it bellowed at her again. She sprinted the distance with ease despite the heat and with the elegant grace of a true bull runner she jumped as high as she could over the horns of the bull. Her hands briefly touched its back as she vaulted off and into the dust. The crowd cheered and applauded. All was noise and laughter as the band struck up again.’

And Vesna from Atalanta in Wine and Rank Poison

‘Meanwhile Vesna dreamt of Jason, his Argonauts and of Atalanta. They were in Colchis. In the midst of the bloodiest of battles. Black Ker circled overhead waiting for the opportunity to swoop as warriors fell. Black Ker tore the souls of dead men and of warrior women from them and flung them into Hades. One of the dead warriors was Una. Vesna trembled in her sleep and her brow furrowed at the terrible sights before her. She saw one woman fighting surrounded by other women—Amazons. She heard the woman cry out as a sword plunged into her breast and then she saw the woman’s face. It was hers.’

Or some strange mythological creature … like those in Blood in Madness Ran from Bull Running for Girls.

‘She found her sisters skulking in the birthing cave. They slithered and wrapped their tails around each other and Cethos hissed a warning at Skylla as she appoached. Skylla took no heed and dragged Iulus closer to Lamia, his limp body already bitten and ragged from the bites of the dog-fish around her waist. The dog-fish then began to disappear one by one.’

5. Donuts or danishes?
Definitely danishes…with vanilla custard tucked inside.

She lives here.

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