(This interview originally appeared in Horror Bound Magazine
on 26 February 2011.)
Lisa Mannetti’s debut novel, The Gentling Box, garnered a Bram
Stoker Award. She has authored a macabre gag book, 51
Fiendish Ways to Leave your Lover, as well as non-fiction
books, and numerous articles and short stories in newspapers,
magazines and anthologies. Recent and upcoming works
(2010) include “Resurgam” in Dead Set: A Zombie Anthology;
“Condemned” in Legends of the Mountain State 4; and “1926: A
Fall River Halloween,” Shroud Magazine. Her story, “Everybody
Wins,” was made into a short film by director Paul Leyden
starring Malin Ackerman and released under the title Bye-Bye
Sally. And her story “Spy Glass Hill” is featured in Horror
Bound’s anthology Fear of the Dark: An Anthology of Dark
Fiction - now available as an ebook. Horror Bound welcomes
author Lisa Mannetti to our Issue 15, featured author profile.
On Horror Fiction
It’s a shame that most readers
equate horror fiction with gore
and sub-standard plots because
that’s what they’ve been led to
expect (mostly through some
pretty terrible films, but
certainly some bad fiction as
well) because most of the horror
writers I know really try to
deliver in terms of elegant
prose, character development,
meaningful events which are
organic to the book itself, and anything else you can think of
that adds up to high quality work. I urge people to read writers
like Peter Straub, Robert Dunbar, and Tom Piccirilli who
consistently raise the bar for the genre.
Anything can be horrific; in fact I’ve always been drawn to
satire and one of the keys to that dual love I have is that humor
is also a skewed version of reality. In fact, writers like Jean Kerr
(one of the best humorists to ever put pen to paper) often
describe small “disasters.”
I majored in 18th and 19th century English literature (M.A.) so
certainly those periods are not only attractive, but they’ve
influenced my work tremendously. I read widely in and out of
the genre so, other influences include writers like J.P. Donleavy,
Flaubert, Edith Wharton, Evelyn Waugh, Kingsley Amis, Woody
Allen, William Styron, John Irving, Truman Capote...to name
just a few.
A huge influence on my development as a writer was the fact
that I loved scaring myself as a kid by reading my mother’s
nursing textbooks. My brother and I played a game with one
where you had to open to a page at random and look at that
picture, then the other of us would have to turn the pages until
the next picture and look at that. You lost if you couldn’t look
at your picture. (And I swear this is true, but no matter who
went first or where we started in this massive tome, my brother
somehow always got this picture of a woman with tertiary
syphilis and no nose and he had to close the book and run to
the bathroom to throw up.) I was terrified by leprosy, (and by
the way there are two types: nodular and anesthetic) toxic
goiter, and acromegaly. (Clearly a ‘safe’ scare since I was
always the shortest kid in the class and the chances of my
suddenly springing up to seven feet tall were pretty slim.)
Also as a kid, I was given a book of tales selected by Alfred
Hitchcock and there were some wonderful stories in it by
Ambrose Bierce, Edgar Allan Poe, Shirley Jackson and other
classicists of the genre, and it probably influenced my
proclivity for both 19th century works and psychological
horror, as well as portrayals of incidents that profoundly affect
the characters in any story.
I’ve also been influenced by poets like Coleridge, Wordsworth,
Plath; and playwrights--especially Tennessee Williams—who is
probably my favorite writer of all time.
The Creative Process
I let my stories and books grow organically.... I don’t work from
an outline. I do sometimes know what will happen at the end
and I work toward that, but I don’t plot chapter by
chapter—ever. I also find it easier, if a work is failing (not just a
scene which may need to be notched up) to throw out
everything and start over. At that point, as a writer, you know
so much more, and it’s often easier to begin over than to try
and fix problems.
I don’t layer afterwards when I write (example, I don’t go back
to add style.) Although, I will occasionally change language a
little...but usually it’s there because I go over what I’ve written
for the day the first thing before I push the book or story
ahead. It helps me focus on what’s there and what needs to be
there next and gives me a good entre into the day’s work.
I also will research ahead of time and on the fly and I find that
research can be a wonderful addition to a book or story—it can
help tremendously with structure and with plot events and also
character development. For me, research is a huge turn on.
I’m working on a book about Mt. Everest now, and I have at
least 50 books and countless DVDs...still, I find there are
things I need to look up and will gladly detour to do so.
I also trust when I’m hitting it and the writing is sailing along (a
great example of that is Imre’s first memory of gentling in The
Gentling Box). I wrote it in one sitting just as it is and never
changed a word. And, I also trust when I think a scene or a
character is out of whack and needs to be fixed. In the case of
a scene, I’ll try notching it up or toning it down...in the case of
a character, I’ll rethink it...maybe this character is more or less
important than I originally conceived....maybe he or she needs
to reverse and become a foil or, if she was evil, maybe a
helper....that’s what makes writing fun...the constant surprises.
I do “see” what I write, but I also “hear” a good deal of what is
going on—including voice and dialogue—which is why I bitch
so much when someone outside ruins a perfectly good writing
session by revving up a chain saw or leaf blower.
Advice to New Authors
First of all, you have to write every day. Some days you’ll
accomplish a lot, others you may sit there waiting for the muse
to descend. I often hear the first line of a book or a story and
you should be listening or scanning inwardly for an image to
get you started. Writing takes practice—the more you do it, the
easier some tricks of the trade are to pull off, but you’ll also
find that the more you write, the more ideas you have and the
more sophisticated your work becomes.
Second. Read everything you can get your hands on. And I
mean everything. Don’t limit yourself to a particular genre.
Third. Keep writing even if you get rejected. It’s part of the
business and we all have to deal with it. Never take it
personally. Keep working.
Fourth. Get yourself in some kind of critique group—whether
it’s online or in person, meet with people who can tell you
objectively what’s working in your stories and books and, more
importantly, what’s not. Even if you disagree, it never hurts to
consider what others dislike and it will help you sharpen your
Fifth. Remember that old credo: if you’re bored the reader will
be, too. Bring passion to what you’re writing...if you’re not
engaged, throw it out and start something else. Don’t worry so
much about writing what you know, write what excites you.
Sixth. Have fun. There’s quite enough misery in the world so
let yourself enjoy the process. Writing is just that: it’s a process
and a journey and the end (or the result) is less important than
the steps and detours along the way. It can take years before
your work begins to be recognized—or maybe it happens
immediately or something in between those extremes. In any
case, you’ve got a long life and a long career ahead, and your
goal is to develop into the best writer you can be.
Seventh: Never give up.
You can find Lisa Mannetti’s short story
“Spy Glass Hill” in our anthology, Fear of
the Dark - now available as an ebook!
Website Content © 2009-2014 Horror Bound Publications. Website Design © 2014 Extraordinarium Digital Press. All rights reserved.
Short stories featured in this anthology and excerpts featured on this website are © their respective author. Horror Bound logo © Michael Brennan.
ABOUT HORROR BOUND
TABLE OF CONTENTS / ABOUT FEAR OF THE DARK’S AUTHORS
EXCERPTS FROM THE ANTHOLOGY
> INTRODUCTION BY PAUL KANE
> “A DISTINCTIVE CURIOSITY” BY DAVID INGALLS (excerpt)
> “NOCTURNAL VISIONS” BY MARK LESLIE (excerpt)
> “FOR FEAR OF LITTLE MEN” BY SANDRA M. ODELL (excerpt)
INTERVIEWS WITH THE PEOPLE BEHIND THE ANTHOLOGY
> MARIA GRAZIA CAVICCHIOLI, Co-Editor/Founder, Horror Bound
> JASON ROLFE, Co-Editor/Former Associate Editor, Horror Bound
> CHRISTOPHER FOWLER, Author, “The Man In the Rain”
> PAUL KANE, Author, “Keeper of the Light”
> LISA MANNETTI, Author, “Spy Glass Hill”
> AARON POLSON, Author, “Keeping the Dead”
ebook distributed by
You can find Lisa
story “Spy Glass Hill”
in our anthology,
Fear of the Dark -
now available as an
BUY FEAR OF THE DARK
from your favourite ebook retailer
OR CLICK THE BIG BUTTON ABOVE FOR WORLDWIDE SALES (USD)