Welcome back! Today I’m thrilled to feature the incredible Chelsea Goodwin! Chelsea is the author of the novel, Pine Hell, as well as the radio host for the fabulous program, In Goth We Trust.
Recently, Chelsea and I talked about her favorite authors, her love of the Gothic, and her favorite songs as a pianist.
A couple icebreakers to start: when did you first decide to become a writer, and who are some of your favorite authors?
I wanted to be a writer ever since I read Nancy Drew. I love pulp formulas and love to use them in my own work like Pine Hell (available on Amazon Kindle) by spoofing, queering and subverting them.
My favourite authors include some mainstream authors like Patricia Cornwell and Dan Brown, but aside from that, the books I revisit the most are Frankenstein by Mary Shelly, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, The Picture of Dorian Gray, anybody from the old Alfred Hitchcock anthologies, Anne Rice, Stephen King, Joyce Carol Oates, anybody that’s been anthologised by Ellen Datlow, and anything that ever appeared in Weird Tales magazine. Neil Gaiman is of course God as any follower of the Lucifer tv series knows.
As you already know, I’m a huge fan of your radio show, In Goth We Trust. What was the inspiration for starting the show, and how has the program evolved over time?
At the time we started in 2011 I was running a bookstore on Main Street in Pine Hill (which was the setting for Pine Hell only in an alternate universe where my cat is my chauffeur) and a woman tried to persuade me to buy an underwriter’s spot on WIOX. Instead I pitched the idea of In Goth We Trust, a radio show dedicated to all things Goth including Goth music and fashion, Gothic literature, Gothic horror movies, etc. Of all the interviews I’ve done, the one of which I am proudest was with John Astin. We debuted on Hallowe’en night 2011.
I’ve been a fan of Gothic horror in the form of the old Universal and Hammer movies from childhood, as well as Dark Shadows. Perhaps my biggest influences were The Addams Family which I saw first run when I was four years old and The Munsters. I was privileged to meet both John Astin and Al Lewis. In the eighties I was friends with Miriam Linna of the Cramps and was a huge fan of horror rock. However, I also have this other weird side that loves weird fiction and Gothic horror from the late eighteenth century to the present day, with a distinct fondness for Victorian Gothic and Art Deco settings You know of my love of Lovecraft and the school of Weird Cosmic Horror fiction he spawned, by love of dark gaslight fantasy and of course the wonderfully modern baroque stuff that you write.
I wanted to combine these interests with the type of free form radio that was done in the early FM days and on seventies and early eighties college radio. I am particularly proud of my interviews, because I model myself after people like Dick Cavett and Mike Davis who seriously know how to conduct an interview in an adult manner and who realise that the goal is to showcase the artist one is interviewing rather than one’s self.
Music is also very important to me. I’d like to think that I’ve been an important part of a revival of interest in the mad genius Screamin’ Lord Sutch for example.
In one of our past interviews on In Goth We Trust, you discussed how every region has its own form of the Gothic, be it the lonely North York Moors of England or the haunted steel mills of the Rust Belt. I absolutely loved this idea so much, and I even mentioned you and this theory in a recent article about sub-genres of Gothic fiction. In your opinion, what is it about the Gothic that lends to its perennial appeal?
This is a fascinating and multi-faceted question. It forces one to think about what one means by “Goth” or the “Gothic.” I believe that it implies romanticism, an artistic expression of the human soul to the mysteries of love, sex, death and the unanswered questions that we all face. I believe the essence of Goth culture is a bunch of teens getting stoned in a graveyard, or a cornfield, or out in the woods and telling each other stories, some of which are humourous and some of which are intended to freak each other out. I’m describing a scene from my own life in what I call “trailer park New Jersey” with its farms being replaced by strip malls, its junk yards full of antique cars and very little for kids to do except hang out in the woods and wild places like the Pagans of old. I’ve had this conversation with our mutual friend Doug Wynne. Ours was a generation of rural Americans that found our own blend of heavy metal music, dabblings with the occult, discovering love and sex and romance and the writings of Lovecraft all at about the same time. Add to that we all grew up on Dark Shadows and Dr. Shock’s Mad Theatre or similar entertainment, and had all seen things in old houses or out in the woods and fields that we couldn’t completely explain to ourselves. I think it’s all of that combined with a search for beauty and the beginnings of a mature aesthetic sense.
In addition to your writing and radio hosting, you’ve also run a bookstore. How did your own tastes as a book lover play into what titles you stocked?
I sell all manner of books online, but my vision for my brick and mortar store is to combine selling fantasy, horror and science fiction books with an emphasis on weird fiction and Gothic literature with a good listening space where I and others can play my beautiful 1910 Steinway upright grand. I also read Tarot for private clients in the space.
I was privileged to take piano lessons when I was a kid from ages 5 to 18. One of my teachers was Harry Lee of the Fred Waring orchestra (one of the last and corniest of the big bands). Along the way I developed a preference for ragtime, early jazz, and what is called the American popular songbook (Cole Porter, Johnny Mercer, Rogers and Hart). I am fascinated by the history of American musical theatre and the role of nonwhite and lgbt people and of course Jews in creating a uniquely American culture. I love the decayed Gothic decadence of old school glamour fallen to haunted house status. I believe that my queer, trans identity and my love of the dark, gothic side of camp are at the heart of my musical performance.
I love to play Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D minor and Funeral March of a Marionette for their use by Vincent Price and Hitchcock respectively. I always open with the theme songs to The Addams Family and The Munsters. Recently I always also do dark, gothic versions of Sugar, Sugar and Jingle, Jangle both from the 1960’s The Archies tv show and both hauntingly re-imagined for Riverdale, which is, in my opinion the best written show on television these days for the way it subverts and reveals the underlying horror that permeates the America that Riverdale and the Archie comics universe have always represented. My feelings about Sabrina are best illustrated by the fact that I live with a huge black cat named Salem.
What books are in your to-be-read pile?
At the moment Love in Vein, an anthology of Vampire erotica edited by Poppy Z. Brite and Wild Nights! by Joyce Carol Oates are on top of the pile. I’m currently reading one of Cornwell’s Scarpetta novels. I am waiting for your latest to arrive so I can savour it, of course.
Do you have any upcoming appearances planned for 2019?
On Oct 24 I will be performing in The Freaky Mutant Weirdo Variety Show at Roxy and Duke’s Road House in Dunellen, Nj. I’m on the bill with A Halo Called Fred which is wonderful.
What projects are you currently working on?
I’m working on some music, and starting to outline another novella in my Lady Sylvia Dorchester and Dr. Drusilla Styles series.