Eerie Encounters: Interview with Deborah Noyes

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Author_photo-1Deborah Noyes is the illustrious author of such unique and haunting tales as The Ghosts of Kerfol and Angel and Apostle. She is also the editor of such horror anthologies as Gothic! and Encyclopedia of the Dead. Ms. Noyes guides us through the dark in the following interview:

1) What is the first story that you recall writing?
Early in grade school, first or second grade, I remember the teacher handing out nifty blank books with Froot Loops’ Toucan Sam repeated on the covers (donated by Kellogg’s?). Kids get blank books for projects all the time in language-arts classes now, but back then, it was s a great and solemn responsibility.

In mine I wrote the story of a girl whose adopted stray cat unexpectedly has kittens. Mean Pa threatens to put the kittens in a sack and drown them in the bathtub if the girl doesn’t find them a home at once, so she bravely circumnavigates the neighborhood with her sad repartee and a red wagon full of mewling kittens. I think she ended up with a blister on her finger from ringing doorbells, which suggests there was a lot of repetition in this story.

2) In addition to other books and authors, what else has greatly influenced your writing?
The natural world and animals, which figure into almost every book I write, at least metaphorically; history, which I ransack on a regular basis; and music, which for me feeds the emotional narrative.

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3) Several of your books and anthologies deal with “dark” or supernatural themes. What attracts you to these themes? Did you ever encounter anything supernatural as a child?
I dedicated my first anthology, Gothic, to my mom—“who kept the dark away, but not completely.” She’s a fan of popular gothic and horror writing and always had novels around by writers like Daphne du Maurier and Mary Stewart, Stephen King and Anne Rice. I got my mitts on these at a young age. One night I’d be reading Little House on the Prairie or Caddie Woodlawn and the next, Salem’s Lot, and I loved both strands equally well.

Growing up, what I craved most was a good story, and that meant genre fiction, especially horror, sci-fi, and other speculative forms. I had that taught out of me in college—or nearly—in favor of Literature with a capital ‘L’. But luckily I discovered writers like Poe, the Brontes, Shirley Jackson, and Angela Carter, and saw that you could succeed between the poles.

Now I definitely crave a telling that’s as satisfying as the tale. For the anthologies I’ve done, my goal was to pair the best literary stylists working in YA with great, spine-tingling themes that kids respond to. I don’t go for slasher horror, shock-and-splat, that sort of thing, but I love an eerie atmosphere, that rich dread you feel when you’re reading a tale that’s well paced and plotted and psychologically intense.

gothic2As for “encounters,” I’ve had the sort all imaginative children do, impossible to explain and impermeable to adult reason and logic. I was a master at scaring myself silly. The grown-up me is devoutly empirical — the wonders of the natural/visible world occupy me no end — but I agree with Einstein that imagination is more important than knowledge, that mystery is paramount.

Looking into the dark is just another kind of inquiry, I think, like watching a caterpillar become a butterfly or observing the cycles of the moon. The monsters in our hearts and minds are as real as any mystery we can apply the scientific method to — if only for what they reveal about us — and as deserving of attention.

So I believe in metaphor as a way of understanding the world, and ghosts and monsters are eloquent metaphors.

4) In addition to being a diverse writer, you are also a photographer. Do you feel as if writing helps you visually with your photography or vice versa?
I know they must inform each other, but I think I got into photography because it’s a completely different way of seeing. You have composition and color (or the lack: I like black & white best) to think about, but the whole process is more visceral and instinctive. I have a lot to learn about visual art though, and I’m sure if I were formally trained, I’d feel bound by the same zillion rules of theory and technique that I’ve absorbed as a writer. For now it’s a relief — and liberating — not to know what all those rules are. Photography started as a hobby, but I have a habit of incorporating my hobbies into work, so I can play more.

5) What advice would you give authors who are trying to get their first book published?
Getting it written is the better part of the battle, but I’d say make sure it’s ready before you submit — as good as or better than comparable books on the market. Try to get perspective before you send it out, take some time away. If you can’t do that, think seriously about any personalized rejections you get; seek out a good critique group or an agent willing to roll up her or his sleeves; and revise and revise and revise.

Having an agent helps. It’s almost essential now, unless you already have a relationship with a publisher or are able to attend a lot of conferences and meet editors in person, which is also/generally a good idea. SCBWI is a great resource.

6) What other projects are you currently working on?
Just turned in the copyedit on an adult novel called Captivity, out this Spring with Unbridled Books, and am in the early stages of a YA about a doppelganger and plague in Florence. I’d love to travel and take more pictures, but nothing in the hopper yet.

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Written by corvusblue

September 24, 2009 at 11:22 pm

One Response

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  1. I love Ms Noyes’s writing, been a fan since she and I were in high school together.

    randy Palson

    March 20, 2010 at 12:26 am


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