The Horror, The Horror: Lucy Taylor Talks to Groovey
Lucy Taylor, who now lives in Santa Fe, has traveled the real world many times over and developed a legion of deadly new fictional worlds within those travels, creating seven novels, six collections, nine anthologies and hundreds of short stories. Taylor’s tales are dark fantasy, straight-from-the-vein scary, erotic horror, of which she has (to her discomfort) been declared the queen (but she kind of is), with a globally literate, conceptually intriguing, and pants-peeingly frightening flair as well.
You started out as a travel writer and your latest book is entitled “Fatal Journeys,” so does your love of travel still play into your writing?
I started out many years ago, and a large part of what I did was travel . . . I also did pretty much anything freelance non-fiction, but travel was my preferred category. . . . I have been fortunate in that I have been able to travel quite a bit in my life and I think it’s my nature. I kind of have a wanderlust. (laughs) So this latest collection, “Fatal Journeys,” is horror set in exotic lands.
Have you visited all the exotic lands in this latest book?
Almost all of them. The one that I haven’t visited is New Guinea but I researched it very well so I don’t think it lacks anything. Oh, I haven’t been to Cappadocia in Turkey. I have been to Istanbul but I haven’t been to Cappadocia and that’s one of the settings. Now, having researched New Guinea, I can fairly safely say that I probably don’t have any great desire to go there. (laughs)
It makes for a good setting for a horror story though, right?
It does. Actually I got the idea for the story I wrote from a newspaper clipping about two women being dragged from their beds and burned alive for witchcraft — and this is within the last couple of years.
I’m a huge horror fan and always have been. But how do you deal with the actual day-to-day horrors of the world and then go home and write terrifying stuff?
That’s a good question, but writing the scary stuff is my way of dealing with the true horror in the world. I think that is just my particular personality type that is shared by a certain percentage of other people. I don’t think that works for everyone but even reading horror, and especially writing horror because, from the writer’s point of view, you’re playing god. So when I am sitting at my keyboard creating a horror I’m in charge of it. I decide who dies, who lives, what kills them and it is completely within my own control whereas the world . . . ? You’re right, it’s scary as hell and that kind of horror I don’t enjoy at all.
So what’s the vibe and feel of “Fatal Journeys”?
They are horror and dark fantasy stories but I will say this: I used to do a little bit more graphic fiction than I have done in more recent years and I don’t really go for what they call the “gross out” anymore. (laughs) I try to inspire horror perhaps a little more subtly. I don’t think there’s anything in this book that would offend anybody. I can say that but I can’t say that about everything I have ever written.
You were given the title of “The Queen of Erotic Horror” at one point. Does that name still fit with your current work?
I really was never that crazy about that title which has followed me literally through the decades. I have written a great deal of erotic horror; I won a Bram Stoker Award once for a novel called “The Safety of Unknown Cities” which was erotic horror. Now this current collection? You know, some of it, I guess yes, is erotic horror. There’s certainly an erotic edge to a lot of what I write but you will have to judge for yourself.
What’s your take on the current mainstream horror with the endless zombie and vampire addiction?
I think it’s on two different levels. I have nothing against zombie fiction; it is immensely popular and I like it myself, and I think that is what the general public thinks of when they think of horror. Now if you go a little bit deeper I think there are some fabulous writers. A couple of people that come to mind: There’s a man named Laird Barron and a woman named Caitlín Kiernan and, if I had the time to think about this — but people that are just incredibly literate and beautifully sophisticated writers and they are doing it within the genre of horror. In the horror genre they are widely known of course but I’m not so sure they get the recognition they are due in the wider world. Also if you pick up any of Ellen Datlow’s anthologies — just, for example the “Best Horror” she does every year — and they are wonderful. Any of Ellen Datlow’s anthologies will introduce you to a whole new level of the very best in horror writing.
What are you working on now?
I have a novella coming out September/October and it’s called “A Respite for the Dead” and the reason I think it would be well-received here, it’s not set in Eldorado but it’s set in a very fictionalized version of Eldorado, basically, and it’s all about the descansos, the shrines for the dead. It’s very regional and I think people who actually live here will enjoy it. I find descansos fascinating and I always did, so I started researching them, and the word descansos is a Spanish word and actually what it means is rest. And it comes from, in the old days, if the pall bearers carrying the coffin from the church to the graveyard and they get tired and have to set it down and have a descanso: a rest. That’s where, when you see these shrines all along the roadways where people have died, presumably a violent death on the road, those are called descansos. I — like one of the characters in the story who photographs these shrines — I find them very poignant and haunting and I thought “I’ve got to do something with these shrines.” So I wrote “A Respite for the Dead.”
Lucy Taylor will be reading from her new collection, “Fatal Journeys,” at Dark Delicacies in Burbank, Calif. on Saturday, Aug. 23 at 2 p.m.