For Women in Horror Month, short story writer, poet, and creator of the horror collection Palimpsest, Caitlin Marceau talks to book blogger and staff writer Renata Pavrey.
Renata: Hi Caitlin, Congratulations on the release of your latest book. While you have been featured in anthologies before, what made you come out with a collection of your own?
Caitlin: Thank you so much! I’m over the moon by the reception this book has had so far! It’s such a dream come true for me and I’m so grateful to everyone who’s helped make this book a reality.
When it comes to why I wanted to put this collection together, I think it was exactly that: because I’ve been in so many anthologies before. Some of the books are out of print, others are pretty hard to find, and I hated the idea of these stories being so scattered. I wanted to centralize my work while giving these stories new life.
Renata: Several stories from Palimpsest have been published in other books and magazines, and even performed live. How did you decide which stories and poems to pick for this book?
Caitlin: Oh man, picking the stories for this collection was like pulling teeth. I struggled, doubted every single one of my choices. Ultimately, I tried to focus on the stories I was most proud of, stories that had gone out of print, and—most importantly—pieces that I felt best represented my body of work. I wanted them all to be diverse enough so that everyone could find something to enjoy, but cohesive enough that they complemented each other.
Renata: You are a prominent name in the contemporary horror writing scene. Your stories range from supernatural and paranormal events to domestic violence and body shaming that are rooted in reality. How do you strike a balance between real versus imagined horrors?
Caitlin: First, can I just say that that’s an incredible compliment to be given? I’m absolutely honoured by it.
As for finding a balance between real versus imagined horror, I wish I could say there was a formula for getting it right, but I really just go with my gut when I’m writing. I believe that the real world is already pretty scary and doesn’t need too much help from me to be terrifying. So, kind of like cooking, I season my stories sparingly when it comes to imagined horror and add more in if there’s not enough kick to it.
Renata: The stories in Palimpsest are set around locations in your native Canada, but there’s a universality in the topics you cover. How challenging is it for a writer, to write local while addressing a worldwide audience of readers?
Caitlin: I think the great thing about storytelling is that so much of it is universal. Everyone understands loss, love, family, individuality, and all those fun foundational themes we see in writing. I think the same can be said about what scares us. So, for me, although it has its tricky moments—like when I use regional language people outside of Quebec might not know—it’s not as difficult as people might think!
Renata: Your writing is impactful in few words, and your poetry is often a class apart. Do you prefer writing prose or poetry? How do you decide which form would be better suitable for a particular theme/story idea?
Caitlin: Thank you so much! That’s so kind of you to say!
Truthfully, I’ve always been partial to prose. Usually, when I’m deciding how to approach an idea, I’ll write an outline, and then—depending on the length of the outline—I’ll know whether it needs to be a short story or a poem. I’ll also opt for poetry if I have a really strong emotional connection to the material or if I’m in the mood to play with form.
Renata: Are there any favorite books or writers in horror you would recommend we read? Who are your literary influences?
Caitlin: There are so many incredible authors out there that it’s hard to pick a favourite, but I can tell you some of the authors I’m loving right now! Off the top of my head, I’d probably encourage people to check out Sonora Taylor’s Someone to Share My Nightmares, Hailey Piper’s Queen of Teeth, anything and everything by Antonia Ward (the brilliant editor of Palimpsest), and I’m a huge fan of the talent that’s appeared on Mark Nixon’s Shadows at the Door: The Podcast. (Hannah Butler and Christopher Long’s stories are especially brilliant, as are Nixon’s Professor Troughton tales and “Slender Chances.”)
When it comes to literary influences, it would probably be Tamora Pierce because of the advice she gave me when I was a kid. She told me to write the stories I wanted to read, and that’s what I’ve done every single day since then.
Renata: Running is a common activity across some of the stories in Palimpsest, along with ice hockey, video games, and hiking in the woods. What are your hobbies – any sports or creative pursuits besides writing?
Caitlin: Plenty, but as the least athletic woman in Canada, I can promise you that almost none of them are sports-related! I really love playing video games and right now, for some reason, I can’t get enough of Back 4 Blood. When it comes to art outside of my writing, a lot of people don’t know this about me, but I’m also a visual artist so I draw all the time.
Renata: Palimpsest is striking from start to finish. What’s the story behind the title and the cover?
Caitlin: Thank you so much! I’m delighted you think so!
For the title, I really wanted something that conveyed the idea that a lot of these stories were previously published but had been given a second chance. Eventually, I settled on Palimpsest, which means “something reused or altered but still bearing visible traces of its earlier form.”
As for the cover, I knew that I wanted a white background because of all the snow in my stories and I loved the idea of being able to incorporate a silhouette somewhere, but that was it. Antonia Ward (editor at publishing house Ghost Orchid Press) is super talented because she took all nine million of my vague ideas and made them into something beautiful.
Renata: Thank you, Caitlin, for taking out time for this interview. We wish you all the best for your newest collection, and look forward to more of your writing.
Caitlin: Thank you so much for having me! It was a blast and I really appreciate it!
About Caitlin Marceau:
Caitlin Marceau is an author and lecturer living and working in Montreal. She holds a B.A. in Creative Writing, is a member of both the Horror Writers Association and the Quebec Writers’ Federation, and spends most of her time writing horror and experimental fiction. She’s been published for journalism, poetry, as well as creative non-fiction, and has spoken about horror literature at several Canadian conventions. Her debut collection, Palimpsest, is available from Ghost Orchid Press and her second collection, A Blackness Absolute, is slated for publication later this year. For more information, visit her at the links below.
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