INTERVIEW: Kirsty Logan

Kirsty Logan is the author of short story collection The Rental Heart and Other Fairytales, awarded the Polari First Book Prize and the Saboteur Award for Best Short Story Collection, and debut novel The Gracekeepers, awarded a Lambda Literary Award. Her book A Portable Shelter is a collection of linked short stories inspired by Scottish folktales, and was published in a limited edition with custom woodblock illustrations.

Her latest novel, The Gloaming, has just been released. She is currently working on a collection of short horror stories, a TV pilot script, and a musical collaboration project. Her story ‘Good Good Good, Nice Nice Nice’ appears in The Shadow Booth: Vol. 2, currently crowdfunding on Indiegogo. Show your support by ordering a copy here.

I wanted to start by asking you about weird fiction in general. Weird fiction as a genre is one with a fairly elastic definition. What is your own personal definition of weird fiction?

The unexpected. The unanticipatable. A story that doesn’t go where you think it will – and then continues to veer off again and again, each time just when you think you know what to expect. A soup of ingredients that you wouldn’t think go together, but you finish the bowl, and even though you’re not sure if you actually liked it or felt any emotion as simple as ‘like’ or ‘dislike’, you want more.

Your story in The Shadow Booth: Vol. 2, ‘Good Good Good, Nice Nice Nice’, has elements of Cronenberg-esque body horror within it, a kind of horror that is so often associated with mother/child relationships – why do you think this is?

The story is taken from the book I’m currently writing, a collection of horror stories called The Night Tender. When I started to write it, I thought it would be a beautiful and melancholic sort of book, dreamy ghost stories, tales of love and loss – perhaps a dash of magical realism, but quite soft and sad. That’s not what came out at all. Instead it was all body horror, teeth and hair-babies, monstrous pregnancy, being eaten or eating things you shouldn’t, and all generally dark-as-fuck. I’ve really surprised (horrified?) myself at what’s lurking in my brain. Doesn’t all horror ultimately come back to the body?

I’m at the age when many of my friend are having babies, or trying to have them. I do think pregnancy and birth are miraculous and wonderful things – but I also think they can be strange and disturbing and dangerous. Being born is the one thing that links every human on the planet. To be so close to life and death, both your own and someone else’s. Women still die in childbirth every day – having babies is natural, but that doesn’t mean it’s safe or easy. It seemed logical to me that when trying to explore what scares me, pregnancy and birth would be pretty high up there.

As the story is set in an alternate 1940s, I wanted to use a song from the time as a title. I toyed with a few but when I heard the 1945 song by Bing Crosby & The Andrews Sisters, ‘Good Good Good’, I knew it was the one. It’s an obnoxiously upbeat song, with the lyrics ‘good good good, that’s you that’s you; nice nice nice, that’s you that’s you; sweet sweet sweet, that’s you that’s you; yum yum yum, that’s you that’s you’. I thought there was something so creepy about the childish repetition and relentless chirpiness of the phrase, particularly when contrasted with the darkness and doubt of the story. I like to imagine the song playing on the radio while Sabrina, the story’s protagonist, stands in her lonely night-time kitchen and contemplates the terrible thing she will do.

Aspects of the ocean are key to the story, especially mermaid’s purses. Your books often find the source of magic and horror in the water. What makes the ocean such a good source for the uncanny and weird fiction?

In Scotland, where I live, you’re never far from the sea. I’ve never gone more than a couple of months without seeing the sea (though I’ve gone a lot longer than that without swimming in it – it’s bloody cold). For me, the sea is the biggest source of magic and horror in my life, the source of all my stories. It’s like love, like birth – too huge for us to properly comprehend, yet the source of all our lives. We’re all from the sea.

‘Good Good Good, Nice Nice Nice’ feels rooted in fairy tale, myth and folklore, though it talks about technology and war, it feels timeless. Your novels also have their roots in fairy tales and folklore – what is it about those older stories that appeals to you? 

A story is timeless for good reason – because human emotion and experience doesn’t change that much at its heart. We will always fall in love and manage to fuck it up. We will always want certain things and want to escape other things. We will always feel resentment and desire and guilt and bliss and irritation and greed. We will always crave love and attention. We will always do things we regret  – we’ll do them even as we know we will regret them. If I can explore even a small part of the emotional timelessness of a folk tale, I’ll be happy.

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The Shadow Booth is a new journal of weird and eerie fiction edited by Dan Coxon. Volume 2 is currently crowdfunding on Indiegogo until 18 May, and includes stories by Aliya Whiteley, Mark Morris, Kirsty Logan, Gareth E. Rees, Chikodili Emelumadu, Johnny Mains, Anna Vaught and many more. Please show your support and order a copy by clicking here.

Interviewed by Dan Carpenter

Dan Carpenter is the host of the fabulous Paperchain Podcast interviewing some of the best writers of today…check it out!

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