HWA CO Chapter Member Interview: Carina Bissett

[HWA Colorado] What’s your favorite thing about writing horror?

[Carina Bissett] I have a strange relationship with horror. I grew up reading Stephen King and Clive Barker. Later, I found Anne Rice. And even though I enjoyed reading these books, I primarily spent most of my time in the realm of fantasy. Dark fantasy, but definitely not what I considered “horror.” Back then, I equated horror with the prevalence of graphic violence in 80s and 90s pulp fiction. In fact, when I started writing—actually, for most of my career—I didn’t consider my work to be “horror”; I described it as dark fantasy. However, once I redefined my perception of what the horror genre actually encompasses, everything else clicked in place. These days, I am more settled; I feel a greater sense of freedom when exploring topics through a dark lens, which I’ve claimed as my own. By identifying as a horror writer now, I’m no longer afraid of what readers might think of my stories. The genre itself offers a great sense of protection simply by definition. I finally feel free to be myself, and that’s a great gift for any writer.

[HWA CO] How does living in Colorado (or surrounding area) influence your writing?

[CB] Although I need a quiet and comfortable place to write, my work is not especially influenced by the outside environment. My settings tend to be in locations other than Colorado, or any other place I’ve actually lived. However, I can say that my favorite time to write is in the winter. There is something about the quiet and the solitude and the cold that comes with winter in the mountains. It offers a sense of inherent calmness. It is my favorite time for creative work.

[HWA CO] What’s the most horrible thing you’ve ever done to a character?

[CB] Such an interesting question! I think all writers are required to push their characters by putting them in difficult situations. This is especially true for horror writers. In my own work, I often write about women who’ve been through physical trauma, so I suppose forcing them to confront that abuse is probably the hardest and most horrible thing I do to my characters.

[HWA CO] What’s your favorite underappreciated horror work (novel, movie, poem, etc.)? Why is it your favorite, and why do you think it’s underappreciated?

[CB] I’m a huge fan of the work of Angela Carter. I was first introduced to Carter when I read The Bloody Chamber in my twenties. It was a revelation. Although she wrote a diverse array of poems, essays, short stories, and novels, The Bloody Chamber is still one of her most famous works. She tore fairy tales apart and then put them back together in transgressive ways. Yet, because these stories are based on fairy tales, they’ve often been dismissed. What many people fail to realize is that fairy tales were not originally written for children. They are violent and bloody and cruel and terrifying…and absolutely marvelous. It’s perfect material for any writer working in the fields of dark fantasy and horror.

[HWA CO] What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?

[CB] Many of my friends prefer to write in cafés and other busy locations. This is a nightmare situation for me. I can only work when it is quiet and calm. No distractions. This is probably why I prefer to write in winter. Is that a quirk? I don’t know. Other than that, perhaps my most “quirky” thing is that I refuse to read my work once it’s been published. I have all of the books and magazines my writing has appeared in, but it feels like bad luck to actually read it in print form. It’s something I’ve always avoided.

[HWA CO] What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?

[CB] I struggle with perfectionism, so it’s often difficult to get words on the page. It doesn’t help that I am also working around the traumatic brain injury from my 2016 bicycling accident. I have to remember to be kind to myself. Craft is a progressive act. You are always growing and changing. Each day provides an opportunity to move forward, even if it is only bit by bit.

[HWA CO] What are you currently working on? (and/or) What’s your next project?

[CB] I’m currently working on a novel about monstrous women living in Chicago during WWI. The original draft was completed during COVID, but I’ve only recently been able to block out the time to disassemble it and put it back together. It’s been quite the learning experience! In the meantime, I’m also getting geared up for my next workshop at The Storied Imaginarium, and I’m busy preparing for the launch of my debut short story collection Dead Girl, Driving and Other Devastations, which is scheduled for release in January 2024 by Trepidatio Publishing.

 “Carina Bissett’s collection is a thing of wonder and beauty. It is a true representation of Carina herself: whimsical, visceral, lovely, and fierce. You can hear women’s voices screaming while roses fall from their lips. Dead Girl, Driving and Other Devastations is a triumph.” —Mercedes M. Yardley, Bram Stoker Award-winning author of Little Dead Red.

Recent news from Carina Bissett:
My essay “Words Wielded by Women” is out this month. It’s available to read online at Apex Magazine on May 30

Carina Bissett is a writer and poet working primarily in the fields of dark fiction and fabulism. Her work has been published in numerous journals and anthologies including Into the Forest: Tales of the Baba YagaUpon a Twice Time, Bitter Distillations: An Anthology of Poisonous Tales, and Arterial Bloom. Her poetry has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and the Sundress Publications Best of the Net and can be found in the HWA Poetry ShowcaseFantasy Magazine, and NonBinary Review. She is also the co-editor of the award-winning anthology Shadow Atlas: Dark Landscapes of the Americas. Links to her work can be found at http://carinabissett.com.

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