The Near Zennor Drive-by: Elizabeth Hand

Elizabeth Hand was kind enough to do a drive-by a few months back. Now she’s back to answer random horror-related questions. Her contribution to A Book of Horrors, Near Zennor, is one of the novellas in the anthology (there are seven short stories and seven novellas playing leapfrog between the covers). She’s still the author of Generation Loss, Illyria, Bibliomancy, Mortal Love and many more titles that will make you lose track of time. She’s also still awesome and she still prefers donuts.

1. Why horror?
I love writing horror. It’s like sex, highly reliant on mood, atmosphere, a slow seduction of the reader — and then of course there’s the betrayal when things go terribly wrong. And there are so many different styles of horror — visionary horror; old-fashioned antiquarian ghost stories; visceral Stephen King-style horror; thoughtful Stephen King-style horror; a sort of post-modern horror. With “Near Zennor” I wanted to write an Aickmanesque story — I love Robert Aickman, and I thought it would be a challenge to attempt to write that sort of elliptical, psychologically driven, dark tale.

2. “Near Zennor” is a novella- what’s your preferred length for writing? Do you find one form easier than another?
I find the novella form very compelling. I think in many ways it’s the best length for supernatural fiction, which depends so much on mood and atmosphere and tension. These can be difficult to sustain at novel length — they are for me, anyway — and I’ve always felt that a ghost story is best heard or read at one sitting. A novella allows you to do that. And it’s long enough for real character development, which sometimes is difficult to compress into a short story.

3. What’s the thing you hate most about writing?
It can sometimes take years for a story or novel idea to germinate and develop in my mind,. When it does, I revise constantly, especially with novels — I feel like it takes a long time for me to get it right. I wish
I could write faster, and I envy writers who are so prolific.

4. Deadlines: handy guidelines or annoying whooshing sounds?
Deadlines are good. Like a lot of people, I’m always pushing them — I think you get dependent on that adrenaline blast.

5. Donuts or danishes? Has anything changed?
Still donuts, but homemade & fried in lard.

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