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Carol Coney - Sweet, Sassy, Ray of Sunshine

It probably feels like every one of these starts out with "________ is a great friend", but I'd be horribly remiss if I didn't include that here. We started talking after she reached out and asked if I'd be willing to review her novel (link to my review at the bottom), and we've talked almost every day since. She's a wonderful human being, and I've learned so much from her!

Carol does an excellent job of combining elements of horror and fantasy, both genres I adore. There's a realistic aspect to her writing, that makes even the most mythological elements seem like a possibility. If you haven't given her work a read, I absolutely recommend it!

1. What is a type or aspect of horror that you think is underrated or underappreciated?

I really love haunted house stories. For me, there is something unnerving in how a place where you are meant to feel safe, can become dangerous and filled with terror. The quiet dread of the creaking floorboard or the flitting shadow crossing the threshold of a closed door, witnessed by those dwelling in a house all alone, night or day, never fails to send a shiver up our spine. Whether it is shadows clawing from the corners of a family home cloaked in night, or the uncanny smiles reflected in a momentary glance in a mirror, all the while drenched in daylight, the haunted house creates some of the most powerful imagery in horror. We can run, but we can't hide.

2. Do you prefer to pull inspiration from experiences/history/culture that you’re familiar with, or finding new things to research?

I draw a lot of writing inspiration from local stories and local mythology, especially faery and ghost stories. Growing up in the North of Ireland you are never far from a faery fort, also known as a rath (the remains of an ancient hillfort or ringfort), faery rings, dolmens, other megalithic tombs, and the sites of terrifying goings on. These stories are woven through our history, intertwined with the land, and have seeped into our lives, inevitably ending up on the page. I enjoy researching other cultures and mythologies, such as the Norse tradition, but I'm always pulled back to the shores of home.

3. What is a particular horror book (or a movie) that scared the daylights out of you, and made a lasting impression?

One of my favourite horror movies is the 1963 The Haunting, based on the novel The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson. More recently, the book inspired a brilliant Netflix series of the same name. There are so many movies that have made a lasting impression on me and influenced my writing, but two stand out: Watership Down and Pan’s Labyrinth. Watership Down, which could be classed as an adventure horror filled with talking rabbits, terrified me as a child and I loved it. Pan’s Labyrinth; a very dark fantasy where a child escapes into an eerie fantasy world to escape her sadistic stepfather, captivated me with how the monsters seemed to come from the earth itself. When it comes to horror books, there are some writers that I will always come back to such as Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Shirley Jackson, Mary Shelley and James Herbert. The list could go on and on.

4. If you could pick something spooky to give its own holiday separate from Halloween, what would you choose, what time of year would you schedule it for, and why?

I find the winter solstice (21st December in the northern hemisphere) a wonderfully spooky time. It is the darkest part of the year. It lends itself to the supernatural as people gather together, celebrating the turn of the wheel and remembering those who are no longer with us. There is a tradition of telling ghost stories at Christmas, who could forget Ebenezer Scrooge's terror at the hands of the ghosts in A Christmas Carol, or the BBC's short television films, A ghost story for Christmas. I would love for the ‘spooky’ to have a bigger place at Christmas once again.

5. When you need a pick-me-up, what are a few of the comforts you go for? Food, movies, a super comfy sweater, you name it!

First thing I would reach for is a cup of tea, then a bag of crisps, then chocolate. I’d snuggle up with a big blanket and a book, but I will have to admit, the book usually lands on my face as I drift off to sleep.

6. During the process of writing and publishing your book (linked here*), what is something you learned that really surprised you?

I learned very quickly that my mind runs off in tangents and the importance of making lists! I was surprised how long it takes me to actually write, as I usually fall down a rabbit hole while searching for things such as a good synonym. I quickly learned how important it is to build a writing community around you, as it can be a very lonely process.

7. With the smaller stories tucked into your novel, did it almost feel like you were putting together your own anthology?

It did! I definitely have to keep track of it all. The stories have a tendency to run away with themselves if I’m not careful.

8. What are some of the strangest things you’ve Googled for the sake of writing?

I’ve googled some pretty gross things in researching what viruses do to the body. What dead bodies look like and smell like. Mostly, my writing throws up random searches, from zombies to seabirds, dragon scales to the structure of feathers.

9. What do you think life would be like if dragons existed at this point in time?

It is hard enough to get some dog owners to scoop their poop, imagine the scat falling from the sky and the huge piles everywhere. Who would clean that up? Life with dragons would be, if the recent dinosaur movies have taught us anything, very dangerous and potentially very short. Buildings would have to be fireproof, claw proof and whatever else proof the giants lizards could throw at them. I love dragons, brilliant to write about, but I think uncomfortable to live with.

10. What inspired you to start writing and getting your work out for the world to read?

I have written stories and poems since I was a child, even winning a poetry competition aged 10 with a poem about dragons! The need to get the stories that are swirling around my head onto the page drives me to offload all that information and create work that hopefully readers will get enjoyment from.

Look Carol up here:

Twitter: @coney_carol

Instagram: coneycarol

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