An Interview with Anya Martin, author of “Sensoria” (GIALLO FANTASTIQUE)

Giallo Fantastique edited by Ross E. Lockhart will ship in May, and I asked if we could do some spotlights on some of the authors and their stories. The authors, and editor Ross E. Lockhart kindly complied. I’ll be posting these throughout April to get the buzz going, so keep an eye out for more this month.

Today, please welcome Anya Martin to the blog!

Will you tell us a bit about your story in Giallo Fantastique and what inspired you to write it?
Actually “Sensoria” has had a bit of an odd journey. What became “Sensoria” started out as a cyberpunk science fiction story in which the sensor was a piece of technology, not a psychotropic insect. It was published by Steve Antczak and Hawk Bassett in their fanzine, SF Randomly, and Lawrence Watt-Evans said some kind words about and encouraged me to send it to pro markets. This was about 1989. In any case, I did but it was turned down by virtually everyone and I finally tossed it in a drawer.

I took it out again in the early 90s after seeing Oliver Stone’s The Doors. That’s when Dorian Cain was named Dorian, and I reconceived him as less punk and more Jim Morrison. Again I sent the story, then titled “Love Song” out to a few places but nada, so back to the drawer, where I figured this time it would stay.

gialloExcept the story wouldn’t let me go, and as I became more interested in and excited by the Weird Fiction Renaissance, I began to think maybe the problem was that it wasn’t an SF story at all. Perhaps it was a horror story. At the same time, I also began to rewatch a lot of giallo films, especially Argento and Fulci, and had the serendipity of seeing both the reunited Goblin and Fabio Frizzi in concert in October 2013, in Atlanta and London respectively.

So when Ross mentioned he was editing Giallo Fantastique, I thought to myself I wonder. Maybe this orphan story of mine could finally find a home. I started playing with it, and quickly the club where the band plays became the church where I saw Fabio Frizzi on Halloween night. I knew to take the story to the weird, the technology as catalyst needed to go and become something more organic, visceral, biological. I’d always been fascinated with beetles and scarabs, and with their legacy and connection to Egyptian burial rituals, they seemed metaphorically also a good solution. And then I just layered in more giallo elements, suspense and an overhang of lush ambiance to enhance the sense of dread. Until the story pretty much separated from its predecessor and took on its own horrific life. Like dis-conjoined Siamese Twins.

A few more small notes for readers who like to dig deeper and spot the Easter eggs. The title “Sensoria” just seemed to fit, but yes, Cabaret Voltaire had a song in the early 80s by that title. The song also kind of fits, but I personally imagine Dorian Cain’s sound to be more like Goblin or maybe prog rock/Krautrock band of the 70s reimagined for the 21st century. Also the Atlanta Undead Apocalpyse is a real thing, only it was called the Atlanta Zombie Apocalypse and it really was a labor of love by local horror movie buffs and professionals, led by Atlanta’s own Renaissance Man of Monster Movies SFX artist Shane Morton. And the local rock music tabloid Stomp & Stammer is for real, too, and a damn cool little read. In sum, I had a lot of fun with this baby even if it took a helluva lot of time to push it out of the womb. And I am grateful to Ross Lockhart for midwifing.

Have you always wanted to write? Will you tell us a little about yourself and your background?
It was more like I always wanted to imagine stories. I was the little girl/only child who developed elaborate adventures with her stuffed animals and little dinosaurs, and pretend games with friends as far back as I was walking, I guess. I hated playing “school” or “house”–instead I preferred “Witches” or “La of Opar.” And my dad started me watching Dark Shadows and Friday Night Frights when I was a toddler, so I have to admit I wasn’t very scared of monsters. Instead I empathized with and cried for King Kong, Gorgo and Godzilla.

In grade school, I wrote plays, quite a few of which were performed, as well as the occasional short story about life on Mars. By high school, I was working on an epic, still unfinished fantasy novel and beginning to conceive of myself as a prose writer rather than a playwright. I studied anthropology for my bachelor’s degree and ended up getting a master’s degree in journalism, so my life took a turn towards nonfiction for many years. But now thankfully it’s twisted back towards fiction, though my “day job” is still freelance journalist for several major national business publications. I also edit and publish the blog ATLRetro.com, which covers “20th century” activities from rockabilly to classic cinema in the 21st in Atlanta.

What do you like to see in a good story, and what authors or novels have influenced you the most in your work, and your life?
I hate to think there’s any specific mold a good story has to fit into, but right now I am very interested in viewing some of the challenges of so-called “real” life through the lens of the weird and the supernatural. I read very widely though and my tastes run from someone who can tell a good story to works that really try hard to push fiction to new frontiers. The key is more writing that flows without lazy formulaic gimmicky, something that has seemed to run rampant in contemporary “literary” novels in trade paperback over the past couple of decades.

The authors and works that influence me have changed over time. That being said, Mary Stewart’s The Crystal Cave, Richard Addams’ Watership Down, JRR Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, Olaf Stapledon’s Sirius, and Frank Herbert’s Dune were big early important works for me. Ursula LeGuin, Fritz Leiber, C.L. Moore, Clifford Simak, Ray Bradbury, Harlan Ellison, Octavia Butler, Fletcher Pratt remain some of my favorite authors that my dad, who was a member of First Fandom, exposed me to. In college, I read a wide range of literature but the authors I absolutely ate up included James Joyce, Shakespeare, Oscar Wilde, Samuel Beckett, WB Yeats, Anthony Burgess, Mary Shelley, Marguerite Duras and Fyodor Doestoevsky (The Brothers Karamazov in particular). Over the years, more authors I have followed include James Ellroy, Andrew Vacchs, Walter Mosley, Margaret Atwood, Kelly Link, China Mieville, Joyce Carol Oates, Toni Morrison. Today I’m reading and excited by many of the authors of the Weird Fiction Renaissance from Laird Barron to Livia Llewyellen to Jeff VanderMeer. Really this is kind of ridiculous because as soon as I read this answer in print, I’ll think of 10 or 100 more authors I should have mentioned.

What do you enjoy most about reading, and writing, dark fiction?
I don’t know why I have always been drawn to the darker side of fiction, but it’s just been natural to me. I guess I prefer to confront the disturbing rather than hide from it, and that exploration of the uncomfortable interests me as both a reader and writer. It’s not the tropes of horror but how they are employed, and what excites me the most about the best of current weird fiction is that it goes beyond tropes to a more visceral, lingering sense of dread. Being hard to scare, it’s the things that get under your skin, the holes one gets caught in and which then grab hold and slowly suck you in deeper, ever deeper.

What’s next for you?
As for what’s next, my story “Resonator Superstar!,” in which Lovecraft meets the Velvet Underground and Andy Warhol’s Exploding Plastic Inevitable multimedia shows, came out also this spring in Scott R. Jones Resonator anthology from Martian Migraine Press, and Dunhams Manor Press will be publishing my weird play “Passage to the Dreamtime” later this year. There are a couple of other things I can’t talk about yet, but otherwise I just plan to keep writing stories and ultimately a novel. To keep up with my fiction, check my Website, www.anyamartin.com

Thanks for the interview.

Keep up with Anya: Website

About Giallo Fantastique:
An anthology of original strange stories at the intersection of crime, terror, and supernatural fiction. Inspired by and drawing from the highly stylized cinematic thrillers of Argento, Bava, and Fulci; American noir and crime fiction; and the grim fantasies of Edgar Allan Poe, Guy de Maupassant, and Jean Ray, Giallo Fantastique seeks to unnerve readers through virtuoso storytelling and startlingly colorful imagery.
 
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