Tara Vanflower is a vocalist whose music has been described as ambient, experimental, and darkwave.
In October 1994 she became a vocalist for darkwave outfit Lycia. She married fellow band member Mike VanPortfleet.
Her debut solo album, This Womb Like Liquid Honey, was released in 1999. This was followed in 2005 with My Little Fire-Filled Heart.
Vanflower appeared on the Type O Negative song “Halloween in Heaven,” off their 2007 album, Dead Again.
She has also appeared with side projects Black Happy Day with Timothy Renner, Secondary Nerve with Daniele Serra and numerous collaborations including Oneiroid Psychosis, Numina, The Unquiet Void, Falling You, and Methadrone. The majority of her creative energy is spent these days writing. She has released Lives of Ilya and Violent Violet Part One and Two and will continue the Violet Series with several installments in the future as well as several other series that are still unfinished.
Tara is a fascinating woman and was kind enough to sit down me recently. We discussed the past, her writing, relatable fears, vampires, and her favorite curse.
NTK: Hello, Tara, thank you for chatting with me today.
TVF: Thank YOU!
NTK: You have a background in music. Do you feel it inspires your writing?
TVF: Yes. Though I also think that writing has inspired music. When I work with Lycia, I am generally given a piece of music to write to, so sometimes the music itself inspires the lyrics. But when I do solo music a lot of times, I take something I’ve written and build the sound around that.
I will say, other people’s music is an integral part of my writing though. I generally have a soundtrack of music in my head that sets a mood within the story.
NTK: What band do you listen to the most?
TVF: Wow, as of late I would say Chelsea Wolfe and Soft Kill. I listen to Drab Majesty and Black Mare as well. A lot of the music that inspires me is played by the same bands I’ve been listening to for decades now.
NTK: Did music get you interested in horror?
TVF: Not really. As a child, for some reason, my parents let me watch stuff on television that I probably shouldn’t have been watching so young…seeing as how it scared me a lot! But, I was always drawn to the old vampire films and The Omen…scared me to death but I was drawn to it.
NTK: Is The Omen your favorite horror movie? If not, what is?
TVF: I had a lot of detailed dreams when I was young about the apocalypse. I can still see some of the images in my head when I think about them. So, The Omen REALLY scared me. It’s definitely one of my favorite films. But, my all-time favorite movie is The Shining. Everything about that movie is perfect to me.
NTK: Is it the dream-like quality of The Shining which attracts you?
TVF: I love that aspect of it. I also love the lighting, the score, the absolute desolation. My favorite scene in the film is where Wendy finds Jack’s manuscript…pages and pages and pages of the same line over and over and over…and you realize right then he had been gone for a very, very long time. To me, that notion is absolutely terrifying. That this whole time she thinks he’s been more or less normal but THAT was going on behind her back. For me, one of the scariest things is the idea of losing touch with reality. It’s probably why I suffer from anxiety so much. (laughs)
NTK: You’ve spoken of your fears regarding writing and have said, “I rarely talk in detail about my editing because, truthfully, I’m insecure about it. Music I know and I’m comfortable with, for the most part. Writing? It’s like opening a diary. I am always fearful of people drawing conclusions and assuming things about what’s in the story. It’s hard to let go. It’s hard to put yourself out there to be cut down.” This statement resonates. It’s like Jack’s typewritten pages in The Shining. His writing bares all. How do you use your fear and anxiety to frighten others?
TVF: That is all something I really struggle with and it’s hard because I have a pretty supportive base for my music. So, venturing off into writing has been scary, but also rewarding obviously. I think there’s a lot of moments in my books where the characters have to confront things about themselves, their situations, etc., that most of us either get to avoid or are forced to deal with and do so poorly. I think I write a lot of my own insecurities into characters (fear of death, getting older, physical insecurities, etc.) probably as a way to deal with it myself. I don’t know if I’m scaring others or scaring myself! Most of my horror, I would say, is almost more internal. That whole, “losing touch with reality,” thing I mentioned earlier…afraid you’re going to lose yourself and never come back from it. I also have moments where actual monsters are confronted, but I think the characters’ bigger horror moments involve confronting their own fears and realities. There are moments in a couple stories I actually went through, though amplified. I hope people relate to those types of fears.
NTK: Speaking of relatable fears, what’s your favorite horror television show and what’s your favorite horror novel?
TVF: Oh man, my favorite horror novel? Is it too cheesy to say I really just like dorky vampire books? (laughs) I just love it. I don’t care if it’s “good” writing or bad. Same for films. I’ll literally watch anything vampire related and find something enjoyable about it. As for good horror shows, I really enjoyed The Leftovers, which to me is horror. I like Carnivale a lot. I don’t know, to me, “horror” is a bit like being detached from reality rather than blood and gore and such. The Walking Dead, for example, was great but has gotten…um…not as great the past few seasons.
NTK: Are vampires your favorite monsters? Do you admire the way they deal with the types of fear you’ve spoken of?
TVF: Vampires are definitely my favorite monster and have been since I was pretty little. I guess because I’ve always had a fear of time passing. I can remember being very small and sitting in my bedroom thinking about how everyone was getting older and going to die, and I made myself cry. Geez, cheery little kid. But for me, vampires have always represented absolute power. No fear of death. No health problems. Control of their environment. I’ve always sort of been jealous of that, I guess, because those are my biggest fears. I’ve always seen them as more of a sympathetic character, at least a lot of them. Some of the ways they’re portrayed are obviously more “evil” and less “human,” but I’ve always preferred the more human vampires, at least those are the kind I identify with. I envy their power and timelessness but also see the angst all that would cause, which I also relate to being the Gloomy Gus I am.
NTK: Do you bring “human” quality to the vampires you write about?
TVF: I do. To me, it’s just more interesting trying to figure out how a being with limitless time and a whole lot of power would deal with the same sort of human emotions and frailties we have. They have to have the same questions…why am I here, what is my purpose, where do I belong, etc., and to me, it’s interesting thinking about that. What would a being think who has killed countless humans, seen more years than any human gets to see—how would they react to change? What would be new or surprising to them? It’s all fascinating to me. A being that’s jaded and yet still discovering something new through someone else’s eyes unexpectedly. It’s all interesting. Of course, they would have the same types of existential questions humans have. Or, they would be deluded that they are all powerful. Or, varying degrees of both. It’s interesting to consider it all. I try really hard to make my characters react like people actually react. I try to put myself in their shoes and react the way which seems logical and natural to them.
NTK: Essentially, you’re creating a vampire philosophy. So many people ignore that aspect when creating vampire characters. I have to ask—what did you think of Twilight?
TVF: What did I think of Twilight? (laughs) Well, I actually read the books and thought they were entertaining enough. There are many holes and aspects that are illogical and cheesy to me, however, they were “fun.” The movies are great cheese! And, anytime I’m surfing the channels and they’re on, I stop if I can. Do I take it seriously? No, but I applaud Stephenie Meyer for doing her thing and getting hers. The bottom line is, I’m not one of those snobs that has to only like things that are “cool.” So, I can appreciate all levels of awesomeness, from Only Lovers Left Alive to Twilight.
NTK: You have a real appreciation for vampires. Let’s talk about some of your own. Earlier, you spoke of dreams. Violent Violet came from a dream. Can you describe the creative process from dream to printed page?
TVF: Dreams have a major impact on my life. I have really detailed dreams like movies all the time. So, a lot of times, I’ll tuck them away for future use. I had a dream one night that my friends and I were hanging out and this ominous stranger was around and vampires were running amuck. It was so detailed, again, I can “see” the places in my head still, and when I woke up, I started recalling it to my husband. About halfway through, I just said, “Man, I’m just going to write this.” It was too cool to let go. Parts of Violet Misery were also from a dream, i.e. the creepy pumpkin farm out in the middle of nowhere. I draw tons of inspiration from dreams.
NTK: You spoke of apocalyptic dreams. Do you plan to write an apocalyptic story or book of your own?
TVF: I haven’t really thought about writing in that sort of style yet. I think it might be too bleak for me at the moment. (laughs) It’s something I seriously dread, especially now that I have a kid. I don’t like thinking about being in scenarios like that. I just get panicked thinking about keeping my child safe anyway, let alone imagining what I’d have to do during a zombie apocalypse. (laughs) That having been said, who knows! Everything I write from music to lyrics to books are all about love and death.
NTK: What do you have planned for the future? Any new books, stories, or music?
TVF: We are halfway through the next Lycia recording and I have a couple solo songs coming out on comps and I contributed some vocals for some other bands. I have three books currently in the editing process which I plan to release at the same time because they’re related. And, then a couple after that to release. I have some vague ideas for future books but have been sort of avoiding them because I know they’re going to be complicated with interwoven characters and timelines to figure out. All of my books are interconnected with characters so it can be confusing trying to put them all in the right place at the right time. (laughs) I’ve got a full plate!
NTK: As you know, Season 13 of HorrorAddicts.net is CURSED! Do you have a favorite curse? If so, what is it?
TVF: Oh boy! I don’t personally believe in curses! Is that bad? However, my husband has teased me in the past that someone cursed him because, back in the 90s, I made these ragdolls and stuffed them with all his hair he shaved off. That sounds super creepy now, but I didn’t think so then for some reason! Anyway, people bought these things and in the course of a couple years, tons of really bad things happened. Life altering things. The joke has been that someone took one of those dolls and cursed us.
NTK: Tara, thank you for chatting with me and putting yourself out there with your writing. It’s been a pleasure.
TVF: THANK YOU! This has been exciting for me because it is my first interview about writing. I’m so thrilled to be included.