“Plumbing the outer edges of one’s sanity”
CB: Introduce yourself.
RV: I am a former college lecturer who is into spicy food, Victorian times, the cosmos, European history, and the humor of P.G. Wodehouse. My background is in English Literature and Law. I grew up in Bombay, went to school and university in different parts of India, landed in Malaysia, where many of my short stories and poems were written. In New York, I’ve served several years as Secretary, also Souvenir Journal and Newsletter Editor for a not-for-profit organization. In between I’ve won prizes for short stories in different countries.
CB: What got you started writing?
RV: There has never been a well-defined point at which I can clearly state writing started. It grew like a second skin, into which I leaned, almost as soon as pen was put to paper. In mid-teens my short story entry “The Invisible Hands” won the first prize.
CB: What is the most rewarding aspect of writing?
RV: The satisfaction of pouring out one’s deepest thoughts. The mental challenge of completing what one is tasked with. Writing has taken me to exciting and wonderful places. I have walked existential paths with my creations, moving among the stars, near oceans, or in the center of the earth, partaking freely of their catastrophes, feeling their joy and pain, crossing times and distance and space.
CB: Do you have a designated space for writing? Tell us about it.
RV: A practical nice sized desk, nothing fancy, holds dozens of pens, stacked in colorful tumblers; piles of notes on sheets of papers, which tend to turn messy; a telephone nearby, and a touch screen computer, for my typing. Within arms reach are three large bookshelves filled to overflowing, some of the books dog-eared, with broken spine, others waiting to be read. And on the coaster, a large mug of coffee.
CB: Are you a planner or a pantser? Tell us a bit about your writing practices.
RV: Now there you have me, figuring out who or what is a pantser, but now that I do, a bit of both would be accurate. At other times either, or neither. By natural inclination I’m a pantser. It’s the way my mind beehives. I could start without outline in the middle of a tale and watch the words run away, on a good day, or I could have a vague idea to start and guide the storyline towards the end I desired. Typically, I wrap my mind around submission guidelines as required by the journals. An idea would germinate which may end up nowhere. There are times I have many false starts but I keep writing anyway and it sort of organizes.
CB: What advice to new and emerging writers could you give?
RV: Never give up, if writing is what you passionately believe in. Read. You can’t be a writer if you’re not a good reader. Steer towards the classics. It is the great writers you find there who have taught the rest of us how to write. Jot down, anything out of the ordinary you see, think or feel. I have a ton of scribbles, randomly jotted down. Write. Whenever possible write daily. Think of it as an exercise routine, the same as working out in a gym. When you feel ready with a submission, proof-read and re-edit again.
CB: Who are your influences?
RV: Reading itself, which is a bright luminary. Enid Blyton of childhood who drove my sense of adventure, John Masefield and Gerard Manley Hopkins who made me see nature in a special sort of way, Victor Hugo, George Eliot, Richard Llewellyn, Thomas Hardy and many more who gave me a grasp of humanity and it’s emotive complexities. With my submissions to journals, depending on editorial requirements, Don Barthelme can just as readily flesh a story or two out of me as Ursula K. Le Guin’s “Schrodinger’s Cat” or Virginia Woolf’s Essays on life. And I shall always count among my joys of reading Emily Dickinson and John Donne.
CB: Physical books or e-readers?
RV: Physical books. I am partial to their smell and feel.
CB: If you could give a PSA to journal editors, what would it be?
RV: A PSA? And what may that be? Thank you for the submissions you read, the difficult decisions you take, your acceptance or rejections, promptly delivered. Apropos of nothing in particular when it comes to connections, good to find you on Twitter in our very active community of writers.
CB: Taphophobia is the fear of being buried alive. Tell us about your fears.
RV: There is the unreal kind which is the fictional / imaginary fear such as one experiences when watching a movie or reading a horror tale and the characters are thrown in different death-defying situations which produce a nail-biting effect. Then there is the real fear in the real world which can be even more terrifying. If the former, it fills me with a sense of delicious dread. If the latter, real fears? Katsaridaphobia. Brings out the gymnast in me, the secret history of my insane pogo stick flip, that sort.
CB: What draws you to dark fiction?
RV: The quality of darkness itself, its speculative flavor, the thrill it spawns, plumbing the outer edges of one’s sanity. The worlds created by masters in the craft in “Dracula,” “The Pit and The Pendulum,” “The Monkey’s Paw,” “The Island of Dr. Moreau,” “Ghost Stories of An Antiquary,” like silent screams, have captured such conjurings of imagination as to stoke my craving for the horror.
CB: How does the darkness in your piece enhance the work?
RV: The brooding darkness in my story IS what lends it atmosphere. Take away the noir elements and the piece would lose the very luster that makes it darkfic. I put the story through a multitude of edits to get the overall veneer of darkness just as I wanted, for my ”beast,” then MC, the tortured soul living out her days in a torment that is cyclical from within as much as it is from without. I researched writers whose prose suited – Shirley Jackson, H.P. Lovecraft, Daphne du Maurier. With older classics the stories may be dated, but to me they are the real windows on how darkness is portrayed.
CB: Tell us where we can read more of you.
RV: Publishing a book is my ultimate goal. It may not happen yet, until a few more of my works are independently published in quality literary journals. While I am content with current output, from newer inaugural issues to seasoned older journals, from genre or theme-based anthologies to university publications, I try to run my old web site at silicasun.wordpress.com which maintains links to my published stories, other posts. Google my name and my writing pops. I am also active on social media platforms, particularly twitter (@silicasun) where I am happy to meet like-minded writers and grow a following.
Read Rekha Valliappan’s “The Beast of Montmoor” in Coffin Bell!