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June 18, 2010

Masters of Horror Anthology:
Interview with Cassie Hart

from Writer of the Horrific and Surreal

Let me introduce you to my friend Cassie, we have known each other for a few years through KiwiWriter, and have been emailing each other for a few months now. Cassie is a founding member of KiwiWriters. Her contribution to the anthology is titled "Its All in the Cards".

For how long have you been writing?

Hi Karen! I've been writing for most of my life, but more seriously over the last three years. I wrote a novel for NaNoWriMo '06, which kick started things for me again and ever since then it's been go go go.

What was your first NaNoWriMo novel? What inspired you for that first story?

That particular novel was Lifelines, though itís gone through plenty of revision and editing since then. The idea actually came up several years before I wrote it, at a contact course for a writing paper I was taking through Massey. We had to listen to a few minutes of music and then jot down any ideas that came to us. I canít remember what the music was but what I could see was a woman sitting on the porch of an isolated cabin, smoking, then a young boy and dog ran out of the house and came up behind her asking for ice cream. Something was watching them from the woods, something that wasnít human. Most of that scene is still in the novel, though the watcher wasnít what I originally thought it was.

It is quite interesting where ideaís come from. So, your story for the Anthology. Where did that one come from?

To be honest, I really donít remember. It was so very long ago Ė all I know is that it started out life as a childrenís story about bullying and ended up a neat little horror story.

Ok, do you normally write in the horror genre? What is it about horror that you like or dislike?

I donít always write horror, and half the time when I do I donít even realize it until I get to the end and read back over it. I love being scared myself, so itís only natural that Iíd want to attempt to scare others, or make them shudder and feel uncomfortable, questioning whether that tap on the window really was just a branch or something more sinister.

I think I prefer my horror to be a little subtler, and have some depth. I want to be scared for hours afterwards, if not days, and gore just doesn't do that for me. Sure, bring on the blood, but I want to see how the events affects the individuals involved, I want to be able to make a connection with the characters.

Yeah, I am in the subtle horror camp too, something that makes you think afterwards Ė oh, that was scary! So what genre do you normally write in?

Speculative fiction, itís a term I hadnít heard of until the last year or so but it seems to be growing in that there are more and more people interested in writing across genres rather than sticking to strictly horror, or fantasy, or sci-fi. I love being able to write stories that encompass a range of things yet all deal with that wonderful question: ĎWhat if...?í

OK, so you write short stories and novel length stories. Which do you prefer doing and why?

Hmm, thatís a tricky one. About six months ago I would have told you that novels were my primary writing love, but since getting pregnant and deciding to put my novels on hold for the time being Iíve found a real passion for short stories. I still love novels, but the reality is that in the here and now I donít have the time to commit to them. Iím really enjoying shorts for the ability to mix and match genres, to just dive into anything that pops up and gets me curious. The beauty is that you can chop and change, you can explore any idea because you only need a few thousand words with which to do that. And if you get to the end and decide it doesnít work for you, you donít feel like youíve wasted too much time.

Itís only been in the last six months or so that Iíve felt like I know what Iím doing with a short though, I think reading some books of short stories helped with that, and having had two stories accepted for publication this year I can certainly say that the quicker gratification you can get from writing short stories compared to novels is certainly a nice thing!

So how do you juggle writing with motherhood?

Thatís a tricky question. Some days I donít manage it very well, and other days it seems like a breeze. I feel really blessed to be able to be a stay at home mother, but itís a very busy job most of the time!

Now that my eldest is in school Iíve settled into a nice routine where I get the housework done with my youngest in the morning (sheís at that Ďhelpful toddlerí stage), then we play and read Ė after that she sleeps and I get my write on because writing time might be scarce for the rest of the day. It usually nets me about an hour of solid writing time, though often I find another half hour after the kids are in bed. With number three on the way though, itís going to be a whole new ball game.

I think the one important thing I've learned from becoming a mother is how to be flexible. You don't have the luxury to wait for the muse to strike, or set your perfect atmosphere--you just have to grab hold of any time you have and make the most of it.

So if you have such limited time during the day, do you read? What sort of books do you like reading?

I do get in some reading time before I sleep most nights, though sometimes I just fall asleep straight away. I like to mix it up and read a range of things--often whatever takes my fancy from the withdrawn section at the library (that way I don't have to worry about late fees). I read some non-fiction, and a mix of short story collections and novels from whatever area interests me at the time. Pretty random really.

I too have started reading a bit more than I used too Ė more time on my hands I guess. I have found that some writers have similar writing patterns. Do you find yourself comparing your writing style to others?

You know, I haven't so far. I'd not be brave enough to say that I'm the next here. I do find that I enjoy writers who have more character based stories than plot based though, which is how I like to write. I also prefer a more stripped down story these days than I used to a few years ago. I'm not sure how others decide who their writing style might be like--I think perhaps it's something another reader might pick more accurately rather than the writer themselves.

So whom do you read? Locally / Internationally?

Locally, I don't read enough, unless of course you count the NZ writers who I'm friends with--I'll often read their work and give them some feedback when asked. InternationallyÖ well, it really depends on my mood. I recently re-read a few of Robin Hobbs' series; they are fantastic. I can't afford to buy new books, and always end up returning library books late, which narrows my options down, a bit. Can't wait until e-readers become more available within NZ because I'm saving my pennies already!

Your writing, what is the most important thing about it?

Hmm, I could take that question in so many different ways! The most important thing though, I guess, is that I get to do it. It gives me a way to explore all kinds of places, peoples, emotions, situations, and whole worlds if I want to. I need that, I have far too much creative energy, too many ideas inside to ignore. So writing helps keep me sane, and allows me to use all that energy in a positive (well, mostly) way.

What do you try to convey in your writing?

Iím not sure I try to convey things so much as explore issues, and whether I get to the bottom of them at the end of the story or not is sometimes irrelevant. Many of my stories and novels have begun from questions I have about the world, though my characters certainly explore those issues in different ways than I would, and might not necessarily come up with the same answers. I really believe in trying to create believable characters, who are also interesting. Characters that speak to the reader in some way (even a negative way), characters that evoke some kind of gut response to them.

Maybe thatís it there, Iím trying to hit readers in the gut at some point in my writing. I want to have emotional impact on them Ė I want to evoke a response that lasts longer than the story does.

Gosh you ask some tricky questions. I should have had a coffee before sitting down to them!

Cassie, thank you so much for taking the time to talk about your writing, I appreciate you letting us explore your world. You can find out more about Cassie at her blog J C Hart.

You can read Its All in the Cards in the Masters of Horror Anthology.

Music: Obsolete by Fear Factory.

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Robert G. Male
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