Geneve Flynn is an award-winning speculative fiction editor and author. She has two psychology degrees and only uses them for nefarious purposes.
She co-edited Black Cranes: Tales of Unquiet Women with celebrated New Zealand author and editor Lee Murray. The anthology won the 2020 Bram Stoker Award® and the 2020 Shirley Jackson Award for best anthology. It has also been shortlisted for the British Fantasy Award, Aurealis Award, and Australian Shadows Award. Black Cranes is listed on Tor Nightfire’s Works of Feminist Horror and Locus magazine’s 2020 Recommended Reading List.
Geneve was assistant editor for Relics, Wrecks, and Ruins, a speculative fiction anthology that features authors such as Neil Gaiman, Ken Liu, Robert Silverberg, James (SA) Corey, Lee Murray, Mark Lawrence, Mary Robinette Kowal, and Angela Slatter. The anthology is the legacy of Australian fantasy author Aiki Flinthart, and is in support of the Flinthart Writing Residency with the Queensland Writers Centre.
Geneve’s short stories have been published in various markets, including Flame Tree Publishing, Things in the Well, and PseudoPod. She loves tales that unsettle, all things writerly, and B-grade action movies. If that sounds like you, check out her website.
NTK: Welcome to Chilling Chat, Geneve! How old were you when you discovered horror and what got you interested in it?
GF: Although I read a lot as a kid, I didn’t really have much access to real horror. I always felt like I wanted something more, but I wasn’t sure what. I found a book in my school library called Where’s My Toe? It was a picture book based on an Appalachian ghost story. An old woman finds a big toe in her garden, and decides, for some unknown reason, to eat it. Then the owner of the toe comes looking for it, groaning, “Where’s my toe?” After creeping closer and closer, the owner takes the old woman’s toe. The thought of eating a toe—ugh. What do you do with the toenail? How did the owner take the old lady’s toe off? Why did they leave their toe in the garden? It scared the crap out of me and I can still remember the illustrations. That was probably my first memorable encounter with horror. But it wasn’t until a friend handed me a copy of Stephen King’s It when I was in high school that the lightbulb in my head really blazed to life.
NTK: What is your favorite horror movie and why?
GF: The Lost Boys, although it’s a blend of horror and comedy. Everything about that movie is just plain fun. The music, the dialogue, the action. I recently wrote a story called, “The Yellow Peril,” as an homage to it and it was pure joy. I also love the Blade trilogy. The movies are over-the-top and ridiculous, but I will rewatch them forever and ever. I grew up reading comics and that aesthetic is what I want when I settle in with my popcorn.
NTK: What is your favorite horror television show and why?
GF: I loved the X-Files. Although most of the focus was on aliens and such, there were some fantastically dark episodes, such as “Home” and “Tooms,” that have stayed with me to this day. The X-Files gave the grotesque a scientific legitimacy that made the horrific seem utterly plausible.
NTK: What is your favorite horror novel and why?
GF: Oh, this one’s tough. This changes all the time, particularly after I’ve finished reading a new book. Can I list a couple? Mongrels by Stephen Graham Jones is tender in the roughest, hairiest way. Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist explores loneliness and friendship, and leaves you slicked in blood. The Talisman, co-written by Stephen King and Peter Straub, is about a boy’s journey through dark and terrible terrain as he tries to save his mother. I could go on and on, but I’ll stop there.
NTK: Which do you enjoy most? Editing or writing?
GF: I really enjoy both. They employ different parts of my brain, and it can be nice to switch from one to the other to give myself a mental break. Both practices inform each other. Developing my skills as an editor improves my writing, and being a writer means I’m sympathetic to the challenges in the revision process. If I’m honest though, my first love will always be writing. That moment when it all comes together and you surprise yourself with a story is magic.
NTK: Do your characters have free will? Or do you control everything they do?
GF: They’re like cats. I can try to get them to do what I want, but they ignore me. I try to plot out my stories and predict what my characters will do, but they often take over and shape the story into something else entirely. It’s always fun to watch that play out. My stories where I let them loose usually turn out pretty good.
NTK: What are you most afraid of?
GF: There’s the pedestrian but constant fear of something bad happening to my children. I guess most parents have that; it’s how we as a species have survived this long despite lacking sharp teeth, claws, and venom. But for something a little more specific to me: swimming in open water. I watched Jaws when I was way too young. I think I was seven or eight. Living in Australia where we have great whites, tiger sharks, and bull sharks is a little unfortunate. There’s an inland golf course about fifteen minutes away from me that has six bull sharks in the water hazard. It’s believed they got into the lake during an extreme flood in 1996. I went snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef once, and I was proud of myself for keeping a level head about it. Then I saw a shark below me. It was only a meter long, but I got out of the water pretty quickly after that.
NTK: How did Black Cranes: Tales of Unquiet Women come about?
GF: Celebrated New Zealand author and editor Lee Murray and I were attending GenreCon, a speculative fiction convention in Brisbane in 2019. We’d known of each other through the Australian Horror Writers Association and on Facebook, but we’d never actually met. Being conscientious Asians, we had both turned up for an event far too early.
We started chatting and discovered that we were the “black sheep” of the writing community: we wrote horror, we were Asian, and we were women. We wondered at the lack of stories in English that reflected our experiences and Lee suggested that we should put together an anthology to showcase writers like us. Of course, I said yes.
Lee approached Kate Jones from Omnium Gatherum and secured them as our publisher. We sought out Southeast Asian authors and invited them to contribute. We signed up Nadia Bulkin, Grace Chan, Rin Chupeco, Elaine Cuyegkeng, Gabriela Lee, Rena Mason, Angela Yuriko Smith, and Christina Sng. Greg Chapman came on board as our cover artist, and Alma Katsu wrote a gorgeous and powerful foreword. The book was published in 2020, and things have just continued to snowball from there.
NTK: What has your experience been like as an Asian woman who writes and edits horror?
GF: When I first started writing, I didn’t even consider writing Asian, female characters and themes. I had read mostly white, male characters and it didn’t even occur to me to write stories based on Chinese and Malaysian mythologies. Once I sat into my own experiences, my work has become a lot more resonant, and I’ve managed to connect with readers. The reception has been terrific; I think there’s a growing hunger for diversity in publishing nowadays. The editing side of things seems to be less impacted by my ethnicity and gender. Authors just want to know that you’re on their side, and that you know what you’re doing.
NTK: What is the one question you wish an interviewer would ask you? And what is the answer to that question?
GF: What’s one weird thing that you’re afraid of? I watched an interview with Mark Ruffalo when he was on the Graham Norton Show and he said he had an irrational fear of being chased by someone with poop on a stick. I like finding out those odd details about people.
I have a thing about electronic marionettes. I can’t even look at pictures of the Thunderbirds. I think it’s the uncanny valley. My husband keeps trying to get me to watch Team America: World Police. I’d rather take my chances with the poop on the stick. I also don’t like the sensation of someone’s foot on me. Strange, I know.
NTK: (Laughs.) I completely sympathize with you. What was it like to win a Bram Stoker and a Shirley Jackson Award?
GF: Surreal and thrilling and wonderful! The Bram Stoker Award ceremony was online due to the pandemic. Both Lee and I had a laugh as we recorded our acceptance speeches, thinking they would never be played. We were both delighted simply to be shortlisted. Lee was also a nominee for her collection of stories, Grotesque: Monster Stories.
When the awards ceremony played, it was announced that Lee had won for her collection. I promptly burst into tears and I could hardly type congratulations to her. I was so overwhelmed, I almost missed the announcement when Black Cranes won. Thank goodness for pre-recorded speeches!
The Shirley Jackson Award was also pre-recorded, and again, we needed to pretend weeks before the actual ceremony that we were delighted to accept the honour. It was wonderful to have won, and the cheer and support we’ve had from the writing community in response has been really lovely. Plus, owning a working replica of an antique nautical compass is pretty neat.
NTK: What does the future hold for you? What works do Horror Addicts have to look forward to?
GF: I’ve recently completed fifteen poems for Tortured Willows, a collaborative collection of horror poetry with Angela Yuriko Smith, Lee Murray, and Christina Sng. The collection is an expansion on the conversation on otherness and gender launched with Black Cranes: Tales of Unquiet Women. The collection was released on National Dark Poetry Day, 7th October 2021. I’m equally excited and terrified. These are my first attempts at poetry and it’s an honour to share a table of contents with such talented poets.
My short story “They Call Me Mother” will also appear in Classic Monsters Unleashed. The anthology is edited by James Aquilone and features horror giants such as Jonathan Maberry, Ramsey Campbell, Seanan McGuire, and Tim Waggoner. It will be published by Black Spot Books and Crystal Lake Publishing in July 2022.
Along with a few short story and poetry invitations, I’m also planning out a horror novel based on the life of Ching Shih, one of the most successful pirates in history.
NTK: Thank you for chatting with us, Geneve!
Addicts, you can find Tortured Willows on Amazon.