Isobel Blackthorn is a prolific novelist of unique and engaging fiction. She writes dark psychological thrillers, mysteries, and contemporary and literary fiction. On the dark side are Twerk, The Cabin Sessions and The Legacy of Old Gran Parks. Her Canary Islands’ collection begins with “The Drago Tree” and includes “A Matter of Latitude” and “Clarissa’s Warning”. Her interest in the occult is explored in The Unlikely Occultist: A biographical novel of Alice A. Bailey, and the dark mystery A Perfect Square. Her short story, ‘Lacquer’, appears in the esteemed A Time for Violence anthology.
Isobel is a gracious and charming woman. We spoke of inspirations, influences, and surprising characters.
NTK: Welcome to Chilling Chat, Isobel! Thank you for joining me today. Could you tell the Horror Addicts how old you were when you discovered horror?
IB: I discovered horror when I was sixteen and sat petrified in the movie theatre watching The Omen. Then came Rosemary’s Baby. I am not sure which was more terrifying. I could not bring myself to watch Carrie or The Exorcist. I was too easily spooked.
NTK: What author has influenced you most?
IB: Both King and Stoker were my early influences. Now I have been introduced to the novels of many horror authors, including the magnificent Sangré by Carlos Colón, a vampire tale like no other, and Return to Hiroshima by Bob van Laerhoven, which is as classy as noir thrillers get.
NTK: What inspired you to write The Cabin Sessions?
IB: The Cabin Sessions arose out of a combination of factors that were going on in my life at the time. That was how the book started out.
NTK: How much control do you exert over your characters? Do they have free will?
IB: As soon as I started writing The Cabin Sessions, a minor character stepped forward and took over the narrative. Nothing like that has happened to me as a writer before or since. It was a very dark and confronting process, giving her the freedom to express herself. I had my own internal horror story going on inside of me during the writing process as a result.
NTK: What is your creative process like? Do you outline before writing? Or do you just write as the mood strikes you?
IB: A little of both. I start out with an idea, which gradually gathers substance. I conjure a few characters, the setting, and the bones of a plot. Then, once I have enough, which usually takes a year, I start writing. I let the voice come, the narrator. Once I have the narrator, I write the first chapter and see where it takes me. Then, there is usually a bit of figuring out before I write the next few chapters. After that, I only plot when I have to. Sometimes I know the ending, sometimes I don’t.
NTK: Where do you find inspiration?
IB: I am inspired by everything. I follow my passion and it leads me all over the place. Every book I write is unique as a result. Horror is a vast genre and as soon as The Cabin Sessions came out and I tried to define it–it’s a dark psychological thriller–I began to explore all the other kinds of horror fiction out there and wondered where I was heading next. I decided I had an appetite for dark thrillers and as soon as I was introduced to Giallo, I was sold. My novel, Twerk, set in a Las Vegas strip club, draws on Giallo tropes.
NTK: What is the difference between a thriller and a horror story?
IB: A thriller follows certain rules and does not necessarily contain any horror tropes. Horror is all about the tropes. Horror is there to shock, to horrify, to revolt. Thrillers seek to thrill. I write dark thrillers and there is enough horror in them for all but the most hardline horror aficionados.
NTK: In your opinion, why do people enjoy horror? What attracts them to darkness?
IB: People like the adrenalin rush. It’s the same as a roller coaster. You are wobbly when you get off and kinda pleased it was over, then the rush fades out and you are in the queue for the next ride. It is very addictive.
NTK: What does the future hold for you? What do we have to look forward to?
IB: I have written three dark fiction novels and a few dark short stories. One has just come out in A Time for Violence, an anthology including shorts by Richard Chizmar and Max Allan Collins, Paul D. Brazill, Andrew Nette, Joe R. Lansdale, Elka Ray, and Tom Vater. My story, “Lacquer” forms the first chapter of a noir thriller set in San Francisco and Singapore.
I’ve also been shortlisted for the Ada Cambridge prose prize and my story will appear in the anthology.
NTK: Congratulations, Isobel! That’s awesome! Thank you so much for chatting with me.
IB: Thank you so much for this, Naching!