What got you into writing in this genre?
It happened almost by accident. I read a book labelled as horror and it was really quite lame. I said to my husband, “I could write better horror than this!” and he said, “Do it!”
So, I wrote ‘The Silver Feather’. It’s not a long story, but I feel that with horror, it doesn’t have to be. Sometimes you just want someone to drop you into a scene and terrify you.
What gave you the idea for ‘Curious Things’?
I wrote a brief story about a black cat and karma for Friday 13thlast October. I named the cat Friday and, although I’d barely begun to give him a personality, he just kept on showing up and taking over. I wrote 13 stories about Friday between then and Halloween, and posted them on my blog. Everyone loved them, so I decided to put them in a book.
Tell us about your past books and stories?
Before ‘The Silver Feather’ and ‘Curious Things’, I published mostly poetry. I love playing with rhythm and rhyme and imagery, and building pictures with words. It’s not greeting card verses – my poetry is honest and sometimes quite confronting. I also have some other stories, including two reinvented fairy tales in an anthology. Those are a blend of fantasy with some dark moments.
I’ve always loved the writing of Emily Bronte, Edgar Allen Poe, Charles Dickens, and Mary Shelley. My favourite poets are Tennyson, Emily Dickinson, and Emily Bronte. They can all be quite dark, too.
What is your favorite book (other than your own book, of course) and why?
I have many favourites, but ‘Robin Hood: Wolf’s Head’ by Eric Tanafon is one of the best things I’ve ever read.
How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?
I think I’ve learned to embrace strength of emotion andthe power of ideas, and to hell with what other people think of them, whether I’m writing horror or poetry. I’m not afraid to say in a poem, for example, things that others won’t. I’ll explore sorrow and love, but I’ll also write about mental illness, fear, anger… anything is fair game. And I’m certainly not one to hold back when someone deserves to be fictionally slaughtered.
For those who haven’t read any of your stories, what story/book of yours do you think best represents your work and why?
Horror: The Silver Feather. It’s a story with depth – friendship, grief, and fear all play their part, so it’s not just “splatter for the sake of the mess”.
Poetry: People seem to love ‘Nova’, but the poetry in ‘The Passing of the Night’ was written during one of the most painful years of my life to date. It’s about not just surviving the challenge and the darkness, but overcoming it and beating what tried to destroy me.
What are you doing next?
I’m currently working on a collection of horror short stories, and on a second collection of horror/dark humour stories featuring Friday, my magical black cat. And, as always, I’m building up another poetry collection which has a number of “horror poems” in it, too.
What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Don’t just settle for putting something out there that is “good enough”. Work at it, refine it, make it excellent. Get a second opinion. Listen to advice from others in the industry. That includes things like editing and proofreading, too.
Joanne Van Leerdam is a poet, blogger, writer, thinker, puzzler, teacher, traveller, photographer and generally nice person. Despite having lived all her life in Australia, she has, thus, far, avoided being killed or consumed by any of the deadly wildlife, which is probably a good thing.
Other than Australia, Canada is her favourite place in the world.
In addition to writing powerful, thought-provoking poetry and short-but-incredibly meaningful stories, she keeps teens enthralled in her senior high school English, History and Drama/Performance classes. She is an active member and performer in her local theatre company and has directed high school musicals for ten years.
Her poetry is contemporary, sensual, moody and easy to read – and it will get you in the feelings. Her horror fiction is deliciously creepy and macabre, and deeply satisfying.