Stephanie Ellis writes dark speculative prose and poetry and has been published in a variety of magazines and anthologies. Her latest work includes the novella, Bottled, published by Silver Shamrock, who will also be publishing her novel, The Five Turns of the Wheel, in October. She has recently been published in Flame Tree Press’ A Dying Planet anthology with “Milking Time” and is included in Silver Shamrock’s upcoming Midnight in the Pentagram anthology with “Family Reunion”. She has collected a number of her published, and some unpublished, short stories in The Reckoning, her dark verse in Dark is my Playground, and flash in The Dark Bites, all available on amazon. She is co-editor of Trembling With Fear, HorrorTree.com’s online magazine. She is an affiliate member of the HWA.
How did you become interested in the Victorian era?
This actually began when I studied for my degree some years back with the Open University. Some of the history modules I worked on dwelt on the Victorian era and I found it fascinating how it was such a time of contradiction. Public morality vs. personal morality, position of women in society, the advance of science vs. religion. So much went on beneath the surface of Victorian life which was regarded as its ‘dirty little secret’ because of this veneer of respectability which took precedence.
What is your favorite Victorian horror story?
“Masque of the Red Death” by Edgar Allan Poe – and pretty much a number of others of his: “Fall of the House of Usher,” “Pit and the Pendulum.” He was a master of the macabre.
Do you have a favorite Victorian horror movie? What attracted you to this film?
I’m not sure you would call this horror but it does have horrific elements and that is The Elephant Man based on the story of Joseph Merrick. The way he was treated as a freak and how he had to hide his face in public was heartbreaking, yet he retained his humanity and showed it was those who mocked and condemned him who were the monsters. I think that’s what I was trying to get at, it asks the question of what makes a monster? The emotion in this film really pulled me in. As a result of this movie, I actually did a study of neurofibromatosis as a result of seeing this film for my biology A-level!
Are your characters based on real people?
Yes. When I was studying with the OU, I loved reading primary sources, real accounts from those alive at the time. One of these was London Characters and Crooks by Henry Mayhew which talked about the penny gaffs and costermongers who attended them, as well as their owners. This led me to Tom Norman who really did operate a penny gaff opposite the London Hospital. He was the man who actually ‘exhibited’ Joseph Merrick. If you want authenticity, read Mayhew’s accounts, they are real interviews with real people. It is one of my go-to source books – and it’s a lovely Folio Society edition!
Do you use an outline to write? Or do you write by the seat of your pants?
Seat of my pants. I can’t plan. I have a character or a situation and I start to write it and I just let it take me where it will. I have tried to plan because some swear by it but I found every single time my characters would not walk the path I’d set out for them.
Do your characters have free will? Or do you decide their fate?
They write their own stories.
What are you most afraid of?
On a ridiculous level, Daddy Longlegs – I can’t stand things fluttering around my head, moths aren’t too far behind that. Silly really, as I don’t mind butterflies. On a more serious level? The same things as most people – death, my own and that of those close to me. I’m also scared of the sheer scale of intolerance in society and the way thought police, trolling and abuse has destroyed free speech.
What is your favorite form of divination?
The Fortune Teller’s head was actually based on one I saw in operation at a local museum. I quite like the idea of the Tarot. I do have a pack of cards now which I am using to inform a new work of poetry and flash in conjunction with author friend, Alyson Faye. That is an ongoing thing with no fixed timescale but it is something I want to see through.
Who is your favorite horror author?
Aagh, it depends on my mood so I’m going to name a few: Adam Nevill, John Ajvide Lindqvist, Shirley Jackson, Amy Lukavics. I’m not going to mention Stephen King because it goes without saying.
What does the future hold for you? What books, short stories, or works do Horror Addicts have to look forward to?
Publications for this year have pretty much happened already (My novella, Bottled, and my short story, Milking Time, in Flame Tree Publishing’s Dying Planet anthology) so now I am working for future publication.
I have been extremely lucky to have been signed by Silver Shamrock Publishing this year. In January they published my gothic novella Bottled. And soon, they will be publishing an anthology, Midnight in the Pentagram which features my story, ‘Family Reunion’ AND in October they will be bringing out my folk horror/dark fantasy novel, The Five Turns of the Wheel.
I have just finished a post-apocalyptic horror novel which is currently with beta-readers, I have a folk horror/psychological horror novel to finish and a post-apocalyptic/horror/sci-fi novel to find a home for.
I’ve a couple of short stories I want to turn into novellas, both post-apocalyptic/horror/sci-fi – sensing a trend here?
I’m building a collection of short stories set in the world of The Five Turns of the Wheel and which people would’ve got a taste of in my short stories, ‘The Way of the Mother’ (The Fiends in the Furrows, Nosetouch Press) and ‘The Dance’ (CalenDark from the Infernal Clock). I would also LOVE to write the story of how Betty came to be ‘Betty’ and can see that as a novella too. You’d have to read ‘The Dance’ and ‘The Way of the Mother’ to discover more about this character although I did publish a bit of flash on my website about him, here.
Having finished the novel for beta-reading, I am now giving time to another love of mine, dark poetry. I’m working on both my collection and the collaboration with Alyson Faye.
So, the future is busy. Fingers-crossed all of the above sees the light of day but whatever happens, I’ll keep on writing. I can’t not.
Addicts, you can find Stephanie on Twitter.