The Horror Tree Presents…C.A.Verstraete
Selene – First, tell us a bit about yourself.
Christine – I’m a news junkie (no surprise there.) I like to craft, mostly working on dollhouses and miniatures, hence I’m a packrat, too. I write every day, a habit you can’t help getting when you work in newspapers. I love animals, have a dog and even raised dwarf seahorses at one time.
Selene – When did you start writing, and why?
Christine – I can’t remember not writing. Ha! I knew I wanted to be a writer in high school and decided journalism was the best way to do it. It’s prophetic, I think, as my favorite baby picture has me with a newspaper and they put a pencil behind my ear. I still write for newspapers as well as write fiction.
Christine – Lizzie Borden has always been fascinating. You can’t help but wonder what kind of person she was. If she was the killer, then she was one of the most devious killers in history. Once I read the actual autopsy reports and viewed the photos, I just knew that my fictional take with zombies and horror provided a perfect solution to what was already a ghastly crime.
Selene – Do you think Lizzie did it? More broadly, you seem to work well within not just horror, but crime and mystery fiction. I think there are close ties between these genres. How do you handle this genre-blending?
Christine – I’ve switched back and forth on Lizzie’s guilt, though if she did do it she was more devious than anyone knew and also lucky given some of the mistakes and sloppiness in the investigation. Crimes often are horrific and many killers in real life are monsters, so it really doesn’t seem much of a stretch to include other kinds of fictional monsters, does it? There’s almost a kinship between fictional and real-life monsters. I’m a longtime fan and reader of Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie, too, so I guess I can’t help blending them.
Selene – Many of your stories are of the “zombie” genre. Some might argue (I’m not one of them) that zombies are overdone, and we live in a zombie-saturated culture. More so a few years ago than now, because publishing trends change, of course. Why do you write about zombies, and why are they still appealing?
Christine – I know new zombie books keep appearing, but I think the genre is still popular since it’s an evil that you can kind of explain and fight compared to the real life evils that are harder to vanquish. The real fascination for me, and for other readers and writers I’m sure, is the characters in the fight. We want to root for them and see them win.
Selene – Do you consider zombies a metaphor or analogy for something else? I’m looking at your book Girl Z: My Life as a Teenage Zombie, about a teenager half-changed into a zombie.
Christine – With Girl Z, zombies truly can come to mean the horrors and angst of adolescence. With Lizzie Borden, Zombie Hunter, I think it’s giving a reason for horrors that can’t be fully understood. The Borden murders were ghastly and truly shocking for the time (and still are). And it was even more mind-boggling (and unacceptable to many), that a woman of Lizzie’s social standing could have committed such a heinous crime. Using zombies kind of answers that “how could she?” question, though many think it trivializes the crime, which was never my intention. It gives an answer, I think, to the unanswerable.
Selene – Of course, this is The Horror Tree, so why are you drawn to the horror genre?
Christine – I’ve always enjoyed getting scared, be it sitting in the front seat of the roller coaster, visiting haunted houses, or watching a creepy movie. I like reading books that make me wonder and want to see what’s next, no matter how awful it is!
Selene – Who or what do you consider some of your influences?
Christine – Like many writers and readers, I’ve long been a Stephen King fan. I also enjoy Richard Matheson, Jonathan Maberry and Dean Koontz. But I like to read in many genres, from historical to women’s fiction.
Selene – I read your LinkedIn profile and a few of the articles on your website. You write non-fiction as well as horror and other types of fiction. Does journalism have an influence on your fiction writing?
Christine – Journalism and nonfiction writing can be good training to write fiction, though the two are vastly different. I didn’t fall into fiction writing as easily, but I enjoy the creativity it allows me. I always say writing fiction lets me make up stuff when I can’t otherwise!
Selene – What does it mean when you say you’re a “chameleon” as a writer? I thought that was an interesting way to describe your work.
Christine – Some writers stick to one genre, but I seem to go wherever the ideas lead. I must say, though, that I really am enjoying writing about zombies and Lizzie Borden.
Selene – In yet another writerly iteration for you, Girl Z is a young adult story. How is writing YA horror different than writing horror for a mature audience?
Christine – It depends on the age frame, I think. Girl Z is a lot less gory than Lizzie, though older kids who watch The Walking Dead wouldn’t be bothered by it, I’d imagine. But kids are exposed to a lot more today at at younger age.
Selene – OK, standard question time. Where do you get your ideas?
Christine – Sometimes they just come to you, from who-knows-where. They suddenly appear. Or sometimes I might see or read something that sparks an idea. I’ve even had ideas come to me in dreams—or are those nightmares? Ha!
Selene – Both Lizzie and Girl Z are well-drawn characters. How do you approach character in your work?
Christine – I try to picture the characters in my head, like letting a movie play. And I think you learn different approaches as you develop as a writer and as the stories unfold. You never stop learning.
Selene – A story like Lizzie Borden, Zombie Hunter or The Haunting of Dr. Bowen requires a great deal of historical detail. What role does research play in your writing?
Christine – You can’t really do a story based on a real life person without doing the research. It doesn’t mean you always have to stick to the facts in chronological order or as reported, though. And since I’m not writing a fictional biography, I have some leeway to shift some events around or add other things to fit the story I’m trying to tell. But I still strive to stick to the framework and facts of the history I find. It just may be presented differently in parts.
With Dr. Bowen, I wondered how he might have been affected by what he saw that day. I wanted to look at the murders and the city’s unique history, but from his viewpoint. The hard part is you often end up getting lost in the reading and researching. It can be time consuming, but it’s interesting! Not surprisingly, I love reading old newspapers.
Selene – You seem to have many writing projects on the go, along with photography and crafts and so on. How do you achieve a balance with so much going on?
Christine – I think you have to make time for different things to challenge yourself and so you don’t get stagnant. It makes life interesting! The really hard part is pushing away from the computer. You can easily sit there all day if you’re not careful!
Selene – What advice would you give a writer who’s just starting out?
Christine – Read a variety of authors. Write what interest you. It’s easier, and lots more fun, to write about what you’re interested in. And keep writing, no matter what.
Selene – What’s next for you, and do you have anything else you’d like to talk about here?
Christine – I am working on Lizzie Borden, Zombie Hunter 2. I’m not quite ready to let go of Lizzie just yet. After that? We’ll see! Thank you for the interview. I enjoyed it!
Selene – Thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule for us!
If you would like to read more about Christine and her work, check out the below links:
Lizzie Borden, Zombie Hunter: (Kindle, Print, Kindle): https://amzn.to/2LbVQ8U
The Haunting of Dr. Bowen: (Kindle, Print, Kindle Unlimited): http://getBook.at/HauntingofDrBowen
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Selene MacLeod is a night operator and sometime writing hobbyist. She holds a BA in Communications from Wilfrid Laurier University and resides in Kitchener, Ontario. Her work has appeared in several horror and crime fiction anthologies, most recently Shotgun Honey, Drag Noir (Fox Spirit Books); and the upcoming Freakshow: Freakishly Fascinating Tales of Mystery and Suspense (Copper Pen Press), and Tragedy Queens (Clash Media).She’s most excited about editing a charity anthology for Nocturnicorn Books called Anthem: A Tribute to Leonard Cohen, due out late 2017.