Cthulhu Calling: Interview with Scarlett R. Algee

For my fourth—and final—2015 spotlight for Women in Horror month, I would like to introduce author Scarlett R. Algee. This Renaissance woman is not only an amazing writer, but also a jewelry maker, a slush pile reader for Sanitarium Magazine, and, of course, a major devotee to Cthulhu. Could we adore this lady any more?

Earlier this month, Scarlett was kind enough to share some details on her artistic process as well as her insight into everything from writing and reading to steampunk and elder gods.

A couple icebreaker questions to start: when did you first realize you wanted to be a writer, and who are some of your favorite authors?

My first exposure to writing came when I was in first grade. My teacher taught spelling and handwriting by giving us a list of words and having us create little stories using those words. (I’m sure my mother still has those somewhere.) That was the beginning of learning to tell myself stories, complete with acted-out performances by Barbie and friends. It wasn’t until a few years later that I realized people actually got paid to write things down, but by then I was already hopelessly smitten by the process.

Favorite authors…oh gosh, I have to pick? Poe and Lovecraft, definitely; I return to those two time and time again. Rudyard Kipling, because I’ve always wanted to live in British India. Clark Ashton Smith, because he could write both beautifully lyrical fantasy and remarkably disturbing horror. Stephen King, whose book “On Writing” should be required reading for everyone. And Terry Pratchett, who taught me that a story can be uproariously funny and yet deeply, seriously moving.

Your writing has been published in two Cthulhu haiku books. What is your process when writing a Cthulhu haiku? (Side note: that might be the coolest interview question I ever get to ask anyone.)

How do I write a Cthulhu haiku (or any other kind of haiku)? Get an idea, brainstorm until I think up some phrases that sound good, and then beat them until they fit the meter :). A lot of people think haiku is an easy form of poetry to write, because the end result is so short. They’re wrong. It can be very frustrating trying to pare a line down to five or seven syllables.

Scarlett R. AlgeeIn addition to writing, you’re also an accomplished jewelry maker. How do you balance two vastly different art forms, and has inspiration from one ever overlapped with the other in unexpected ways?

Jewelry and writing: balance them by keeping them as far away from each other as possible! That’s easier than it sounds, because most of my jewelry pieces are created in an hour or less, while writing is an ongoing, daily, dead-of-night process. Another thing that helps with the balancing act is that once I create something, physical or written, it gets put away for a while, and I give myself time to switch gears. There hasn’t been any significant overlap yet–I’ve done a *little* steampunk writing, though horror is definitely where my heart lies–but I’m open to the possibility.

Are there any particular themes you return to again and again as an artist?

My jewelry is entirely steampunk, so there’s a constant revisitation of the concepts of progress, of technological advancement, of discovery. Clocks, compasses, and cogs: the measure of human achievement, but also the measure of human mortality.

With writing, it’s a bit more personal. I have a form of chronic lung disease which, over the years, has meant a lot of time in hospitals and, occasionally, in operating rooms. The themes I find myself coming back to, time and again, are medical: drugs, experimentation, surgery. l’ve dabbled in some pretty dark corners–vivisection, anesthesia awareness, medical zombification. The human body is a fascinating piece of work, especially with the peel off.

CthulhuIn what directions would you like to see your horror career go? More published short stories? Novels? A multimedia project incorporating both jewelry and fiction? All of the above?

For the foreseeable future, I’m aiming for more published short stories–I feel I’m a better “short” writer than a “long” writer, though I try to reach a little more each time, to eventually work up to a good “long” story. I have a few story ideas on file that may become novels, but my immediate goal is to get into an anthology or two this year.

What upcoming projects are you planning?

Oh, projects! I’ve just finished a novella (it’s a riff on that “medical zombification” idea, with some light steampunk elements), and that’s being proofread as we speak. I’ve also recently rediscovered two Lovecraftian short stories I wrote years ago, and they’re my current project; I’m polishing them up in hopes of getting them published. The next thing I have planned is a story that deals with the treatment of psychiatric patients in the early 20th century–the plot runs deeper than that, of course, but it’s requiring a *lot* of reading and research. And, last but not least, I’m tinkering with interactive fiction. The 2015 Interactive Fiction Competition opens on 1 July and I hope to have a serviceable game created by then. It will almost definitely involve horror.

Thanks again to Scarlett for participating in our Women in Horror Month spotlight. You can check out her jewelry work at her Etsy shop at copperwalkdesigns.etsy.com. As for her writing, be sure to visit her blog at sralgee.wordpress.com where she shares all the latest updates on her burgeoning fiction career. This is one writer who most definitely earns the Cthulhu seal of approval.

Happy reading, and enjoy the rest of Women in Horror Month!