Alma Katsu, Carrie Laben, S.P Miskowski, Gwendolyn Kiste, Kaaron Warren, Priya Sharma, and Helen Marshall.
I asked these wonderful authors with great stories published about this:
Your favorite characters and stories from fiction what are they?
Wow, that’s a tough one. The title character of Virginia Woolf’s Orlando has always been a favorite. My earlier books show a heavy influence from Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire, both Louis and Lestat. As a matter of fact, my goal with the Taker books was to create a villain who was utterly horrible but irresistible, which I think I did (judging from the fan mail he gets).
Typically, when asked to list favorite characters, I think people tend to remember those with heroic or admirable traits. (Think of original flavor Atticus Finch.) The thing is, I understand why most “good” characters do what they do. But a leap of imagination is required when it comes to those with despicable intentions, or an appalling degree of moral weakness. For this reason, I’m fascinated with the conflicted, the unreliable, the ambiguous and the downright awful. I’m constantly trying to understand someone like Amy Dunne (Gone Girl) or Louise (The Perfect Nanny). Two of my enduring loves are:
Notes on a Scandal by Zoë Heller
Barbara is one of the least cool, least attractive characters in recent fiction. A teacher and an obsessive manipulator, Barbara’s desire to control the object of her envy and bitter affection drives the novel. She is only able to worm her way into the life and family of a vivacious, immature younger woman because she knows the woman’s terrible secret. In the emotionally predatory tradition of Humbert Humbert, Barbara behaves like a spider, patiently spinning and waiting until her trap is prepared and her prey is most vulnerable.
The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith
Wouldn’t we all like to be Ripley for a day or two? But I don’t know if any of us could last even that long. Watching him tell lies to justify his actions, and more elaborate lies to cover his tracks, the reader feels dizzy to the point of nausea after a while. The more he lies, the more layered and dangerous his world becomes and the more likely it seems he’ll have to bump off another character, to keep his complicated ruse going. The thing I find most intriguing is that he doesn’t perform premeditated murder so much as he lashes out violently when cornered, and then figures out how to escape. He is, above all, an opportunist. I can’t help admiring how he rebounds from every near-disaster.
I’m revising a novella, The Best of Both Worlds, to be published by JournalStone/ Trepidatio in 2020:
Roland and his sister Pigeon are the kind of people most visitors to the small town of Skillute never notice: ordinary, hardworking folk who keep to themselves. They obey the speed limit and pay their taxes on time. They perform strange rituals and tend to their garden by night. Affluent new neighbors ignore them. Old acquaintances take them for granted. No one knows what secret worlds they may inhabit, whether stalking the living or speaking to the dead.
The story takes place concurrently with the action in The Worst is Yet to Come, my latest novel, published February 2019.
S.P. Miskowski is a recipient of two National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships. Her stories have been published in Supernatural Tales, Black Static, Identity Theory, Strange Aeons and Eyedolon Magazine, and in numerous anthologies including The Best Horror of the Year Volume Ten, Haunted Nights, The Madness of Dr. Caligari, October Dreams 2, Autumn Cthulhu, The Hyde Hotel, Darker Companions: Celebrating 50 Years of Ramsey Campbell, Tales from a Talking Board and Looming Low. Her novel I Wish I Was Like You won This Is Horror 2017 Novel of the Year and a Charles Dexter Award for Favorite Novel of 2017 from Strange Aeons Magazine. Her books have received three Shirley Jackson Award nominations and a Bram Stoker Award nomination, and are available from Omnium Gatherum Media and JournalStone/Trepidatio.
I love this question because it challenged me to really think about the characters that mean so much to me and why they resonate with me. It’s certainly not an exhaustive list, but the ones that immediately jumped to mind were Merricat Blackwood from We Have Always Lived in the Castle, Cecy from Ray Bradbury’s From the Dust Returned, Lucy Westenra from Dracula, Rebecca de Winter from Rebecca, both Jane Eyre and Bertha Antoinetta Mason from Jane Eyre, and Louisa Tether from Shirley Jackson’s “Louisa, Please Come Home.” The thread that unites all these women is that they’re boundary-crossers, unafraid to disregard social norms and live life on their own terms. Now sometimes, those terms don’t work out well for everyone, including themselves, but even so, they do their best to find their own way. Still, there’s a lot of tragedy in these characters too, just as many women have suffered in real life for being different and straying from what society tells us is “right.”
This might be part of the reason why as a reader, I’m such a sucker for a happy ending: because when a story does work out well for a strange and so-called “difficult” female character, it helps us to rewrite our own accepted narratives. It’s like saying things might have always been a certain way before, but they don’t have to stay this way. Our past isn’t our destiny. Consequently, even though they didn’t all get their own happy endings, these characters help inspire me not to live life in an ordinary way, but instead to challenge myself and see where the road ahead can lead me if I’m brave enough to take it.
A new charitable chapbook from Nightscape Press, The Invention of Ghosts, is due out in December. http://www.nightscapepress.pub.
Gwendolyn Kiste is the Bram Stoker Award-winning author of The Rust Maidens, from Trepidatio Publishing; And Her Smile Will Untether the Universe, from JournalStone; and the dark fantasy novella, Pretty Marys All in a Row, from Broken Eye Books. Her short fiction has appeared in Nightmare Magazine, Shimmer, Black Static, Daily Science Fiction, Interzone, LampLight, and Three-Lobed Burning Eye, among others. Originally from Ohio, she now resides on an abandoned horse farm outside of Pittsburgh with her husband, two cats, and not nearly enough ghosts. Find her online at gwendolynkiste.com.
This is an ever changing, ever growing list! The stories I love are the ones that remain with me long after reading. The ones I want to start again the minute I’ve finished, because on the second read, everything is different.
Here are just a few:
Night Piece for Julia: Jessamyn West (short story)
Lord of the Flies: William Goldman
Haunting of Hill House: Shirley Jackson
The Sin Eater: Elizabeth Massey
Rebecca: Daphne Du Maurier
And then there were none: Agatha Christie
The Shining: Stephen King
The Stand: Stephen King
1984: George Orwell
Whimper of Whipped Dogs: Harlan Ellison (short story)
A Boy and his Dog: Harlan Ellison (novella)
Focault’s Pendulum: Umberto Eco
Headlong: Michael Frayn
Life: a User’s Manual, Georges Perec
Lanark: Alisdair Gray
One flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest: Ken Kesey
Dr Neruda’s Cure for Evil: Rafael Yglesias
Poisonwood Bible: Barbara Kingsolver
In the Wet: Neville Shute.
Atonement: Ian McEwan
The White Hotel: DM Thomas
I have a story coming out in an anthology from Chasosium called Sisterhood, and two novellas from Cemetery Dance, one a reprint, one a new story.
Kaaron Warren’s stories have appeared in Australia, the US, China, the UK, and elsewhere in Europe, and have been selected for both Ellen Datlow’s and Paula Guran’s Best of the Year Anthologies. Kaaron has lived in Melbourne, Sydney, Canberra and Fiji. She has published five novels (Slights, Walking the Tree, Mistification, The Grief Hole and Tide of Stone) and seven short story collections, including the multi-award winning Through Splintered Walls. Her most recent short story collection is A Primer to Kaaron Warren from Dark Moon Books. Her novella “Sky” from that collection won the Shirley Jackson Award and was shortlisted for the World Fantasy Award. It went on to win all three of the Australian genre awards, while The Grief Hole did as well in 2017. In 2019, she has three Aurealis nominations: Tide of Stone, A Primer to Kaaron Warren, and Crisis Apparation, a novella. Kaaron was a Fellow at the Museum for Australian Democracy, where she researched prime ministers, artists and serial killers. In 2018 she was the Established Artist in Residence at Katharine Susannah Prichard House in Western Australia. She was Guest of Honour at World Fantasy Convention in 2018, New Zealand’s Geysercon in 2019, and Stokercon 2019.
Kaaron Warren has been publishing ground-breaking fiction for over twenty years. Her novels and short stories have won over 20 awards, from local literary to international genre. She writes horror steeped in awful reality, with ghosts, hauntings, guilt, loss, love, crime, punishment and a lack of hope.
Read our interview with the author.
I’ve only ever reread two books. ‘The Bloody Chamber’ by Angela Carter and ‘The Great Gatsby’ by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Both were very different experiences the second time around and I loved them both. There are so many things I’d love to revisit, but don’t as I’m scared of missing out by not reading something new.
Characters that have stayed with me are Hilary Mantel’s version of Thomas Cromwell in ‘Wolf Hall’ and ‘Bring Up the Bodies’, Marion Halcombe from ‘The Woman in White’ by Wilkie Collins, Olympia Binewski from ‘Geek Love’ by Katherine Dunne.
Priya Sharma’s fiction has appeared venues such as Interzone, Black Static, Nightmare, The Dark and Tor. She’s been anthologised in several of Ellen Datlow’s Best Horror of the Year series, Paula Guran’s Year’s Best Dark Fantasy & Horror series, Jonathan Strahan’s The Best Science Fiction & Fantasy 2014, Steve Haynes’ Best British Fantasy 2014 and Johnny Main’s Best British Horror 2015. She’s also been on many Locus’ Recommended Reading Lists. “Fabulous Beasts” was a Shirley Jackson Award finalist and won a British Fantasy Award for Short Fiction. She is a Grand Judge for the Aeon Award, an annual writing competition run by Albedo One, Ireland’s magazine of the Fantastic.
She is a Shirley Jackson winner, British Fantasy Award nominee and and Locus Award finalist for “All the Fabulous Beasts”, a collection of her some of her work, which is available from Undertow Publications.
Read our interview with the author.
Some of my favourite authors include Kelly Link who has an amazing knack for writing creepy childhood stories, Stephen King for his incredible storytelling voice, Rob Shearman for his black humour, Malcolm Devlin for his humanity, and Marian Womack for her deep understanding of the trauma of climate change. A novel I returned to repeatedly while writing The Migration was Jane Rogers’ The Testament of Jessie Lamb, which is about a similarly aged young woman who makes a decision to sacrifice her body in order to give birth to the next generation. It’s a book filled with enormous, surprising heart.
Check out her new novel Migration.
I reviewed as: “majestic, mysterious, and haunting story, hypnotically taking you under it wings and unraveling though the voice of seventeen year old Sophie.
Helen Marshall is a critically acclaimed author, editor, and medievalist. After receiving a PhD from the prestigious Centre for Medieval Studies at the University of Toronto, she spent two years completing a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Oxford investigating literature written during the time of the Black Death. She was recently appointed Senior Lecturer of Creative Writing and Publishing at Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge, England and she is the general director of the Centre for Science Fiction and Fantasy.
Marshall’s creative writing aims to bring the past into conversation with the present. Her first collection of fiction, Hair Side, Flesh Side, which won the Sydney J Bounds Award in 2013, emerged from her work as a book historian. Rather than taking the long view of history, her second collection, Gifts for the One Who Comes After, negotiated very personal issues of legacy and tradition, creating myth-infused worlds where “love is as liable to cut as to cradle, childhood is a supernatural minefield, and death is ‘the slow undoing of beautiful things’” (Quill&Quire, starred review). It won the World Fantasy Award and the Shirley Jackson Award in 2015, and was short-listed for the British Fantasy Award, the Bram Stoker Award and the Aurora Award from the Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Association.
Read our interview with the author.