The Horror Tree Presents…An Interview with Rebecca Fraser
Selene – First, tell us a bit about yourself. I see you’ve got a Hallowe’en story in an anthology coming out this month.
Rebecca – Thanks, Selene. I live with my husband, son, and ancient cat (it’s his 20th birthday today!) on the Mornington Peninsula in Victoria, Australia. We’ve been here for the last five years. It’s a lovely coastal community that’s welcomed our family and allowed me to feel very grounded. In between content writing, copy editing, operating StoryCraft Creative Writing Workshops, and raising my family, I try and spend as much time as I can find working on my true passion, storytelling.
I’ve got a couple of publications due out this Halloween season: One of my poems, ‘Cycle’ is included in Killing It Softly – The Best of Women in Horror Vol 2. I’ve also got a flash fiction piece ‘Knock Knock’ in Trickster’s Treats, a Halloween themed magazine with thirty-six stories, covering six creepy themes.
Selene – What got you started writing?
Rebecca – This one sounds like an easy question, but it’s actually quite hard to drill down on! I think I was born fascinated with words. I was a voracious reader from a very young age and started writing fiction early – probably when I was about eight or nine years old. I tinkered with stories, composed endless poetry, and whenever it was a family member’s birthday, indubitably a poem from me would accompany their gift.
From there my writing turned to songs, false novel starts, articles, and short stories that I didn’t know what to do with, and didn’t know how to connect to the greater writing community. It wasn’t until the mid to late 2000’s when my life was a lot more settled that I finally started taking my writing seriously – honing my craft, researching markets, networking with other writers, learning industry standards, expectations and pitfalls, and submitting.
Selene – Congratulations on your middle-grade novel that’s coming out in 2018. Tell us a bit about it.
Rebecca – Thank you! I’m so excited about it! ‘Curtis Creed and the Lore of the Ocean’ is a middle grade/early teen novel scheduled for release in 2018 by IFWG Publishing Australia. It combines my love of the ocean with my passion for speculative fiction with an Australian setting.
Set in the fictional coastal Queensland town of Midnight Cove, it brings together thirteen-year-old Curtis Creed, a talented upcoming surfer, moving through the grief of his father’s death and a dramatic speculative storyline in which two warring undersea species fight for an all-important object.
It was my objective to provide readers with an exciting, fast-paced story subtly infused with positive messages topical and relevant to today’s youth, and combines relatable characters in a familiar setting, dealing with unfamiliar circumstances and challenges.
Several themes have been used to carry the narrative, including making sense of grief; more so dealing with grief and the diverse way it affects individuals and impacts on family dynamics. I endeavoured to bring to the forefront the positive aspects that can be gleaned from grief – courage in the face of adversity; overthrowing the stigma of mental health issues; self-worth, self-acceptance and self-belief. It is my hope both male and female readers will find the characters convincing, facing issues and challenges that may parallel their own.
Selene – How does writing for a younger audience differ from an adult audience?
Rebecca – Hmmm, I feel a greater sense of responsibility to a younger audience, if that makes sense. When I first set out to write Curtis Creed’s story I decided it would be a book that tackles tough issues – it’s a tough world – but would be uplifting, and ultimately good would triumph over evil, and courage and kindness will prevail. I don’t let Curtis get there easily, mind you – he has a lot of obstacles, both mental and physical, to overcome – but I wanted to write a book that my 9-year-old son would be able to draw inspiration from.
Kids don’t want – nor need – to be spoon fed, and they can pick a bullshitter a mile away. When it comes to reading they demand the same thing as adults – authentic voices, engaging characters, and an entertaining plot that doesn’t sugar coat or condescend. Kids enjoy being thrilled, but naturally, the subject needs to be age appropriate. I bring shades of darkness into many of my works for younger readers, but the light always outshines the dark…
… but when I write for a clearly defined adult audience, most bets are off 😊
Selene – What or who are some of the influences on your writing?
Rebecca – So many! I’m inspired by the greats of the late 1800’s / early 1900’s – M R James, Guy de Maupassant, H G Wells, Saki, and others of that ilk.
I can’t rate Shirley Jackson enough – her quiet, cunning style is truly masterful.
More contemporary influences – Robert McCammon, Joe Lansdale, Annie Proulx, I’m currently enjoying Liane Moriarty’s keen observations and portrayal of suburban familiarity, Tim Winton.
Stephen King has been a giant to me since my early teens. His earlier works influenced me greatly – they challenged me to write outside the safety of my cognitive parameters; to look more intensely at the mechanics of character, and to indulge and embrace my love of horror.
Selene – As a Canadian writer, I’m always interested in the power of setting in storytelling. You mention your love of the ocean, and both ‘Curtis Creed and the Lore of the Ocean’ and ‘Coralesque’ from the Gold Coast Anthology feature the ocean heavily. What does water mean to you, thematically?
Rebecca – I’m not surprised, Selene. Canada is so beautiful, with such a vast diversity of landscapes and environments to draw inspiration from!
I have always had an affinity with the ocean. I don’t think I could ever move to a non-coastal setting. The ocean is not only beautiful and soothing, unyielding and enigmatic, it can be terrifying and powerful and unpredictable. It is also stuffed with the most fascinating alien-like creatures, many of which I am sure we’re yet to discover.
I guess, thematically, the rhythm of the ocean translates to the rhythms of life – the ebbs and flows, the highs and lows, the power and the passion, the calm and the chaos.
Selene – Other than the ocean, where do you get your ideas? OK, I know that’s a cliché, but inspiration is so varied from author to author!
Rebecca – I always love reading answers to this question! For me, it’s a combination of things. Sometimes it’s a snatch of overheard conversation (I’m a dreadful eavesdropper), that inspires the kernel of a story. An article or news item might trigger inspiration. Sometimes it’s a sequence of words that make me think what an intriguing story title they would make. Sometimes I get a glimpse of an inciting incident or situation from random sources, and little building blocks start to form a framework. The characters always seem to come later.
I walk a lot – there are some lovely walks that surround my home – and this is usually when the threads of a story come together, or when I get a resolution to plot points that have been proving problematic.
Selene – Further to the theme of inspiration and influence, why do you write in the horror genre? I see you also write in other capacities, so what stands out about horror to you, over other genres and forms of writing?
Rebecca – I initially started writing the sort of stories I loved to read – the strange, the weird, the macabre. Dark fantasy and horror were always on my radar. Even from a young age, I enjoyed horror in the form of fairy tales (I had some very dog-eared copies of the Red and Blue Fairy Books).
To me, horror in its various forms is art. It is such a great vehicle to highlight the many different aspects of the human experience, which is a perennial source of fascination to me.
While I don’t pigeon-hole myself purely as a writer of speculative fiction – I love to explore other genres as well as creative nonfiction – horror and dark fantasy is my first love.
Selene – What about character? Who’s your favourite of your characters to date?
Rebecca – I’ve got a real soft spot for new girl in town, Morgan, who is Curtis’s unlikely ally in ‘Curtis Creed and the Lore of the Ocean’, my forthcoming novel. She’s razor smart, loyal, yet socially awkward – at an age when you just want acceptance.
There’s also Mayor Selwyn Carter – my antagonist in a novel-length sci-fi thriller WIP. He’s a really nasty piece of work that I hope readers get to meet one day. I love a good bad guy, and Carter was so much fun to write. This particular novel has been ‘bottom drawered’ for some time, but the characters still make so much noise in my head, I know they are busting to come out and play. I’m looking forward to seeing what Selwyn’s got to say for himself in the redraft.
Selene – Tell us about your creative writing workshops. What are your approaches to teaching writing? Let’s talk about the quote: “Writing well means never having to say, ‘I guess you had to be there.'”
Rebecca – I started StoryCraft Creative Writing Workshops this year, and I’m happy to say it’s been really well received. My workshops are designed to inspire, educate and encourage aspiring authors of every age and ability. They are hands-on, engaging, and interactive, and cover the various elements of craft with age-appropriate content and exercises.
I love the quote, “Writing well means never having to say, “I guess you had to be there.” It’s by comic strip creator, Jef Mallett, and it pretty much encapsulates everything I love about good writing.
Selene – I see you’re involved with Women in Horror Month, which happens every February. Do you buy it when someone says, “I don’t care about an author’s gender, it’s the story that matters”?
Rebecca – Women in Horror Month is a fabulous initiative, and I think it’s gone a long way to raising the profile of female horror writers, as well as destroying a long-held myth that women can’t (or shouldn’t) write horror.
I’m fortunate (?) perhaps in that I don’t think my writing has been overlooked or dismissed because of my gender (but then again, would I know? Perhaps this is a naivety on my own part). I want to buy it when someone says, “I don’t care about an author’s gender, it’s the story that matters,” as you’d think that in 2017 gender would no longer be an issue (be it for fiction or sports writing, or historical memoir), however the evidence is still there (hello, social media comments) to indicate that this is another naivety on my part. I do feel like the tide is turning though. I really do.
The spec fic community here in Australia is brimming with males and females who are highly committed advocates for inclusivity, acceptance, and diversity, and I’m proud to be a part of that.
Selene – You’re also a copy editor and proof-reader by profession. Let’s talk about the editing process, and how important is a good editor?
Rebecca – A good editor is an invaluable, mandatory part of the publication process, in my opinion. No matter how well you can write, editing one’s own work is nigh impossible, and not recommended.
An editor can offer insights to your work that you are unable to see. From structural issues, point of view problems, character inconsistencies, and fact-checking, through to syntax, sentence structure, grammar, punctuation, a good structural editor, copy editor, and proof reader is one of the best investments you can make if you want to get your best work out there. And why wouldn’t you?
Selene – As a writing teacher and editor, you bring a lot to the process. What advice would you give to an aspiring author?
Rebecca – Read widely, read often, and read forensically!
Selene – If you weren’t a writer, what else would you be doing?
Rebecca – I would have loved to have been a Marine Biologist, a Palaeontologist, or a Museum Curator. I would also have loved to own a Cattery (this dream is not dead to me).
I’ve had quite a diverse resume in my time, with jobs across a wide range of industries. I once went through the application process for the Australian Federal Police … but that’s a story for another day 😊
Selene – What’s next for you? Do you have anything else to add for our readers?
Rebecca – I’m currently working on a bit of a change of pace for me – a young adult novel set in 1991 that explores family secrets and dynamics. I’m really enjoying the writing process for this one, and hope to have a first draft finished in the next few months.
Thanks so much for your time, Rebecca!
If you would like to keep up to date with Rebecca, you can find her at the following links: