I have a piece of horror fiction, Dog Eat Dog, which is included in an anthology, The Animal, published by Booktrope. The collection of short stories is part of Booktrope’s Edge imprint, which probes deep into the blood and sweat-stained corners of “dark erotica” or “erotic horror”.
One of the other eleven authors from the anthology is Scarlet Darkwood, with several dark feathers to her prose bow. Scarlet and I threw a bunch of questions at each other to help promote The Animal. You can check out my answers to Scarlet’s (more challenging) questions on her blog here.
Cult Projections: You are an author of various genres; what specific ones are they, and name a title of yours from each of them?
Scarlet Darkwood: I write in several genres: Erotica (Pleasure House); Romance (Mad Betrayal - 50% complete); Horror (Cradle To The Grave - not yet written); Supernatural Romance (Words We Never Speak - undergoing revisions), and Gothic (no clue on this one yet!) I focus on themes that are unique or are done with a twist. They say everything’s been done before, but I try to create something that’s not too run-of-the-mill.
CP: What novels from your youth paved the way for you to become a writer, and name a few adult novels that have left a lasting impression on you?
SD: I adored the Nancy Drew series, as well as the books from Anne Of Green Gables. The Lord Of The Rings and The Left Hand Of Darkness still stand out in my mind. I enjoy historical fiction. Courtesan by Diane Hager is a favorite of mine. As of late, I’ve found myself very attracted to books by Angela Carter (The Bloody Chamber) and an adult book by Dr. Seuss— The Seven Lady Godivas — featuring seven sisters who wear no clothes and go in search of learning certain truths about horses. Anything that’s unusual, twisted, or weird, I’m all for it. For many years, I was a non-fiction snob, focusing only on non-fiction books for the purpose of learning spirituality and new age subjects.
CP: You prefer avant-garde themes, but what about writing style? Do you employ unconventional prose at all, or are you straight forward in your style?
SD: My style sometimes reflects a Victorian style, actually. Don’t get me wrong. I can write modern prose, but my sentences are longer and more descriptive than the modern shorter lines. If you’re used to stories written in the last several years, my structure might throw you for a bit. However, I’ve had people tell me my writing is crisp, clear, and often akin to Anais Nin (whom I’ve never read [makes mental note to add her works to the TBR shelf]). I like the style of Anne Rice, with her descriptive, flowing prose. Sometimes I think I sacrifice this descriptiveness in order to move right along in the story. After all, I question if the newer reader really care for such descriptive passages, wanting to just delve into the heart of the story and be done with it and no to something else.
CP: You’ve maintained diaries since you were a young girl. How do they differ from your published work? Do you use much autobiographical content in your prose?
SD: What’s interesting is that my diaries were dull, boring, and very little was written in them. They were not anything like an Anne Frank diary (which inspired me to keep a diary in the first place). Many writers started out their writing career from keeping diaries and journals. Though I always enjoyed writing in school, I’ve only been writing for the last three years of my adult life. As an author, I only hope readers find my work exciting and fun to read. Only one of my books contains several elements of occurrences in real life, while the other books are truly works of fiction and don’t reflect the real me at all. I’m rather prudish, if you can believe it! But as an author, that changes dramatically.
CP: What’s your take on graphic sex vs. graphic violence in fiction? Do you have any taboos or boundaries?
SD: I’m okay with graphic sex if it’s in a novel, and there’s consensual sex between the characters. I can also tolerate some dubious consent. I’m not that fond of graphic violence though, especially scenes when someone is being killed in the old style (not like the cop and forensic movies you see today). I dislike videos depicting instances when someone is being executed (e.g. footage of atrocities committed in the Middle East). I don’t like rape scenes in crime movies.
CP: Do you take inspiration from movies or TV shows at all? If so, any specific examples? If you could have one of your novels or short stories adapted into a short film or feature, which one would it be?
SD: I take my inspiration sometimes from the most ordinary things in life, a simple scene in a piece of artwork, to a combination of words. I can be driving in a car, see a small cabin or be having a conversation, and something starts brewing in my head. It’s rather odd (makes mental note to start journaling when I get a creative spark). I think my Pleasure House Collection could either be used to create a new movie, or some of the books could be used for a movie. Probably a better choice would be a horror novel I haven’t written yet. I’ve had the idea simmering for quite a while. Once I finish up some other current projects on my list, I will tackle that one.
CP: When it comes to the daily writing grind, is there a method to your madness? Are you a sparrow or night owl? Do you use lubricants (booze, tea, mountain spring water)?
SD: Coffee or tea are the lubricants. I’d say wine, but that would only dull my senses. I don’t always write every day. Sometimes I just need to let my mind rest and mull over some parts of my book that are giving me problems. I usually start a book with a very broad idea. Beginning with a rough outline, I start to added meat to the bones with each section I start to write, until I’ve completed the book. Sometimes my mind is better in the evening, more so than waking up early (which I avoid when I can). It’s interesting when I write something down one day, only to go back and review it another day and go, “What on earth was I thinking?” It’s that way. Interestingly enough, I can still read my books and be entertained when I go back to them months later.
CP: Have you ever read a novel that genuinely gave you nightmares? A novel that genuinely aroused you?
SD: I don’t know that I’ve read a book that’s given me nightmares, but I’ve read books that still cross my mind when I least think of it. Madeleine Roux’s Asylum series are some of those books (though she writes Young Adult). I loved Louisa Burton’s erotic series, Castle Of The Hidden Grotto. Unfortunately, I’m not sure she’s writing anymore, or at least not any more books under that name. Arousing novels to me: Anne Rice’s Sleeping Beauty trilogy, though I have not bought her latest book, Beauty’s Kingdom. Some of the old Victorian erotica are still interesting to read, and I adore gothic novels like Rebecca.
CP: How much of a literary romantic are you? Do you lament the gradual demise of the hardcopy? How important is cover art?
SD: I’m not lamenting hard copy books as much as I would think, though many of the books I’ve purchased lately are print. I enjoy unique cover art. I don’t see much of it today as I would like, especially with all the indie authors whose books all seem to look alike. It appears that Big Five publishers want little in the way of graphics, usually putting out books with a solid background and just the name and title, usually in fancy fonts. Indies want all the people and images. Again, some of my favorite book covers belong to Madeleine Roux. They’re edgy, dark, and creative.
CP: If you could start your own publishing house, what would it be called? What would the publishing house emblem be of?
SD: Before being accepted by Booktrope Publishing, I published under my own “press,” Dark Books Press. As far as an emblem goes, perhaps it would be fun to do something clever with the letters. Or maybe an “eye” motif.