AUTHOR: PATTY TEMPLETON
Patty writes everything from modern splatter to darkly whimsical horror. Her first novel, There Is No Lovely End, came out in July. Earlier this year she was at a writer commune in Rhode Island. Currently, she is in a small town in Iowa about an hour outside of Des Moines. Where she’ll be in a month, she has no idea.
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Q: Tell us a little about the projects you have going right now.
A: I’m whizbanging all over the damn place.
My first novel came out in July.
I have been promoting the hell outta that beast. I have a story in the upcoming Blood Bound Books’ anthology Night Terrors III.
In my free time, I’ve been working on two different projects. One is a lesbian Indiana Jones pastiche that takes place in the 1950s rare book world with a heavy influence of Chicago blues. I’m thinking it is a novella. The bigger next project is a novel-in-stories about a Halloween town called Shady Grove. Think about it like Winesburg, Ohio, but if gorgeous freaks like Vincent Price, Elvira, Stephen King, Shirley Jackson, and Sharon Needles lived there. Each story centers around a local business and its owner.
…I think I am basically putting my own heaven on the page. Who wouldn’t want to live in a town with an all-night diner called Chainsaw Sue’s?
Q: Is your writing based on people you know, or events in your own life?
A: Oh hell yes. If I know you, you are eventually ending up in a story. Not on purpose, but it happens. Writers are watchers. We are eavesdroppers. We’re thieves. Jim Jarmusch said:
“Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination. Devour old films, new films, music, books, paintings, photographs, poems, dreams, random conversations, architecture, bridges, street signs, trees, clouds, bodies of water, light and shadows. Select only things to steal from that speak directly to your soul. If you do this, your work (and theft) will be authentic. Authenticity is invaluable; originality is non-existent.”
Writers steal from everyone – from family to the a-hole, loud talker on the train.
Q: What inspired you to get into the horror genre?
A: I LOVE EVIL DEAD 2. I saw it in fifth grade at a birthday sleepover and my brain was never the same. Sam Raimi’s take on horror – where humor and the grotesque equally vie for your attention – that was the skeleton hand that dragged me into the darkness.
Q: Have you always been interested in horror?
A: Horror was not allowed in my house. It was something for bad people.
…so obvs when I was 14 me and my bestie crammed as much filth into ourselves as possible at sleepovers. Nobody had to know that we brought home 5 horror movies from JC Flicks. Oh, and they were golden, too – WITCHBLADE? Oi. MAXIMUM OVERDRIVE. Geez. But still The Exorcist came outta one of those sleepovers.
As for horror fiction…oddly enough, I didn’t start heavily reading that until I was in my twenties. Now I tend to read more horror books than see horror movies. It’s easier for me to cram a book into my day than a movie, usually.
Q: What do you love most about writing horror?
A: In Zen and the Art of Writing, Bradbury said,
“I have never listened to anyone who criticized my taste in space travel, sideshows or gorillas. When this occurs, I pack up my dinosaurs and leave the room.”
I connect this back to horror because – holy shit – anything goes. Every topic. Horror fans are out-there folks and we want to hear ALL THE STORIES! I can attack anything on the page and know that somewhere out there, there is a niche audience for it. No one says, “Why the hell do you wanna write an Exorcist meets The Last Picture Show story?” They say, “Dude, when’s that gonna be done?”
Q: Is there anything you find particularly challenging when writing for horror fans?
A: Nope. I don’t think about anyone when I’m writing. It’s hard enough to get shit on the page, let alone think about your audience while yer doing it.
Q: Where do you stand on the gore factor?
A: Give it to me…but I don’t want the gore to be more important than the story. If you have crap dialogue, but hella rad gore sequences – I don’t care about your movie. If you have the best fall-off-a-roof-get-impaled-by-a-rusty-birdfeeder-still-alive-till-squirrels-eat-yer-heart scene ever, but gave me a stupid why-the-hell-you-were-alone-on-the-roof-looking-over-the-edge-at-midnight reason – I don’t care about your book.
I do have one gore issue – rape scenes. Because most of the time they are done in a way that doesn’t settle with the narrative. There was a Salon article that nailed it:
“Here’s the best way to start: Don’t use rape purely for shock value. Don’t use rape as a simple explanation for why a character is strong, sorrowful, or anything in between. And don’t forget that if a rape does happen, it has to continue to be a part of the larger story.
It’s not that rape can’t ever be used to advance plot. But rape should never be used just to advance plot.”
Give me your gore, but you better be telling me a solid story to go with it.
Q: Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
A: This question is evil.
I don’t have one favorite author. I have a list. A Giant, GIANT list. I will give you the shortlist. Stephen King, Shirley Jackson, and Alexander Dumas. All of these folks are gold-star writers who build complex characters and plots.
Q: What books and movies have influenced your life most?
A: Oi. Way to keep asking the damn hard questions. But here goes…
I read Daniel P. Mannix’s autobiography Step Right Up! (also titled: Memoirs of a Sword Swallower) when I was about 15. I found it at the library book sale. I mean, come on, listen to this:
“I probably never would have become America’s leading fire-eater if Flamo the Great hadn’t happened to explode that night in front of Krinko’s Great Combined Side Shows.”
WHAT THE HELL? Who says things like that? Mannix did. It isn’t necessarily the most gloriously written book ever, but it was an early introduction to the idea that you have to make your own magic in this world. Your daily life is as absurd and beautiful as you choose it to be.
Johnny Got his Gun, by Dalton Trumbo, is absolutely one of the most horrific things I’ve ever read in my entire life. It helped to shape my political stance on war.
Ferlinghetti’s A Coney Island of the Mind, goddamn, that’s good poetry. Here is a man who is a poet, a painter, a publisher, a bookstore owner, and a frikkin revolutionary. When you read someone like that at 16…there ain’t any hope left for normal life satisfying you.
Oh geez. I could go on. I LOVE BOOKS. But on to the movies – Evil Dead 2 was discussed above. The Exorcist was hinted at. I grew up Southern Baptist. I am more of an agnostic these days, but religious horror, when done well, stills freaks me the hell out. The Exorcist is my be-all-end-all horror movie. It is a vomit-swamped example of being shocking and intellectually stimulating.
Q: What book are you reading now?
A: I just finished reading Elmore Leonard’s short story collection When the Women Come Out to Dance. Holy f, it was good. File under: sometimes bestsellers are actually badass. Leonard’s work was the inspiration behind the show Justified. I will absolutely read more of him. Next, up I want to grab The Last Horror Novel in the History of the World by Brian Allen Carr. I read about it on Fangoria and am like YES. GIVE. It’s all black magic and cheap beer in middle-o-nowhere Texas.
Q: What movie do you most want to watch in your Netflix queue?
A: Dude, I’ve totally been meaning to watch Stitches FOREVER. I think that is happening this weekend.
Q: Can you share your experience as a female writer in a male dominated genre?
A: Who the hell knows what to say to this anymore? I think I would extend it to this:
My experience as a woman in horror has been less offensive than my experience as a woman in daily life. But to keep this outta politics and with the arts…Diversity and inclusion are problems not just in horror, but at large in American art. I want to see more than the Final Girl being a strong female character in a movie or book – and you know what? I’d like her to be a chunky, Korean lesbian. Hella hottie, model white chicks shouldn’t be the only female characters out there – and there are different forms of strength than being a “badass.”
I believe there is a deep well of stories to tell and that we are just beginning to dip our cups into the water. Part of my experience as a woman in horror is writing these stories and convincing people that diversity of gender, experience, and culture are important.
Q: Can you share a little of your current work with us, give the readers a taste for blood?
A: Here’s an excerpt from my novel, There Is No Lovely End:
Nathan Garlan was a sixth-generation medium conceived by a ne’er-do-well and an outlaw.
He was not expected or desired.
In truth, Hester Garlan had several times drunk abortive teas. When these had no useful effect, she had the sincerest intention to lift the lid of the nearest garbage barrel and leave the sniveling babe for the mutts and maggots.
It was known among her people that unless you were done watching the dead, you didn’t breed. Your dead sight would go to the child.
Hester had never had an accident breathe out of her before. In a candlelit moment of the child blinking dark eyes, she called him Nathan. Once. Then Hester thought better of becoming sentimental over a swaddled setback and hoped that when she killed him, she’d once again be able to see spirits. If not, she’d be fighting the dead blind-eyed all of her days.
Q: Do you have any advice for other horror writers?
A: Put your ass in the chair and write. And read. Helltons – and in all genres. Then, find a few folks, whether online or in-person, to talk to about writing and reading.
Q: Where can fans reach you and buy your books?
A: Hey-o! Here I am, on my website. My Twitter. I got a Tumblr, too. And look, this be where my book is.