Welcome to our first interview of February! As you might already know, it’s Women in Horror Month! That means for the next four weeks, I’ll be featuring some awesome spotlights on those morbid females like me who like our genre blood and guts-filled.
For our kickoff interview for Women in Horror Month, I’m pleased to present author and artist Betty Rocksteady. I first discovered Betty’s work through her illustrations at Theme of Absence. She created an incredible black and white image for my story, “One Wish for the Wishing Well.” That’s when I went down the rabbit hole and learned about her other illustration work as well as her illustrious career as a fiction writer.
Recently, she and I discussed favorite authors and artists as well as her recently released novella, Arachnophile.
A couple icebreakers to start: when did you first decide to become a writer, and who are some of your favorite authors? Likewise, who are some of your favorite artists?
I decided to be a writer when I was about 6 or 7 years old. I was an avid reader and I wanted to be the youngest published author, but I could never seem to finish anything. I had quite a few stops and starts with writing over the years since then but never really took it seriously. When I started approaching 30, I realized it was up to me to make it happen. For a long time I believed I wasn’t a writer because it didn’t come as naturally as I wanted it to, but then I realized it was a skill like anything else and if I was willing to be bad at it for a while, I could end up being pretty good at it. So I wrote a story a week for a year or so, and read a ton of books on writing, and took some workshops, and things are starting to come together for me! I’m really proud of how far I’ve already come.
I read a lot of horror, and Stephen King has been my favorite since I was around 12. I still read everything he writes. I also like the usuals – Clive Barker, Joe Hill, Jack Ketchum, John Wyndham, Richard Matheson. Ira Levin, Nick Cutter. Mo Hayder writes some really really weird crime fiction. Lately I’m into Kealan Patrick Burke, Max Booth, C.V. Hunt… Oh god, this is a huge list.
My favorite artists are Edward Gorey, Virgil Finlay, Sam Keith. I like pen and ink illustrations and weird comic book art.
You are both a visual artist and a fiction writer. Is your approach different when creating a story versus creating a sketch or a visual piece? Do you often illustrate your own stories?
I’ve illustrated a couple of my own stories, and I also do illustrations for other people’s fiction monthly on Theme of Absence. Drawing and writing are actually more similar in process than I realized until you asked! Usually they both start with a seed of an idea that I chew on for a few days, turning it over in my mind. Eventually I progress to sketching/brainstorming on paper. When I’m writing, I like to know where I’m going and how I’m getting there. I always know beginning middle and end when I start, but sometimes it goes differently than I expected once I start pounding the rough draft out. Drawings start rough and loose and get tightened up with each stage of drawing.
Your sideshow poster art is incredible! A fantastic combination of the vintage and the macabre! Have you ever daydreamed of joining a sideshow, and if so, what would your special performance talent be?
Thanks! I love sideshow lore and I used to read a lot about it. If I were in a sideshow I would be some sort of cat trainer. Or a fortune teller. Or I would combine the two and train cats to help me tell fortunes.
Your recent novella, Arachnophile, involves a man who becomes romantically entangled with a spider. Tell me a little about the inception of this story.
I was invited to submit something for the New Bizarro Author Series, and my editor, Garrett Cook helped me brainstorm some pitches and we tossed ideas back and forth. The one he liked best was one that I wasn’t all that sold on, but he encouraged it into fruition and a lot of strange and unexpected things happened. I’ve always been really creeped out by spiders, much like the protagonist of this book. Things sort of changed as I researched and wrote it though… also like my protagonist, although not quite to the same extent! The whole book has a warped Eraserhead vibe to it, and it plays on a lot of my personal fears and disgusts, and I’m really happy with how personal and strange it ended up being.
You’ve written short fiction and now novella-length fiction. Any plans for writing a novel in the near future?
I would love to write a novel some day. I have another novella I’m finishing edits on now, and it’s really terrifying. I’m also working on some more short fiction. A novel is definitely going to happen, but I’m not sure whether it will be sooner or later. Once an idea comes that needs a novel to breathe in, that’s when it will happen.
Out of your published works, visual or fiction, do you have a favorite?
I’m really proud of Arachnophile. I have a brand new story called These New Appetites in F*cked up Fairy Tales Volume 1 that has some of my favorite characters I’ve ever worked with. It’s an unsettling story of when girl meets wolf.
Big thanks to Betty Rocksteady for being part of this week’s author interview series. Find her online, and be sure to check out the official Women in Horror page for ways you can get involved this wonderfully bloody February!