An Evening at The Cabaret of Dread
Chris talks to the Queen of Macabre, Lily Childs
Lily Childs is the author of the Magenta Shaman serial novel, and has previously published a collection of her dark poetry on Kindle as well. Recently, Lily made the difficult and brave decision to give up her immensely popular weekly writing challenge, “The Prediction”, in order to devote more time to her own writing, which includes a second volume of shorts, an as-yet-to-be-revealed novel, and numerous other projects that have been waiting for her attention. Throw into the mix her duties as horror editor for Thrillers, Killers n’ Chillers, and it’s nothing short of remarkable that Ms Childs has been as prolific as she has been.
I recently sat down with her for a cup of tea to discuss her new collection of short stories, Cabaret of Dread, writing in general, and the inspiration of textiles. Granted, the table we sat down at was about an ocean wide, and held together with wifi signals, but for a good chat, it’s all worthwhile!
CA: Thanks for agreeing to this interview Lily, and welcome to the Leaky Pencil’s first ever interview!
Ok - first question: Tell me about Writer's Talkback, Col Bury, and Thrillers, Killers n' Chillers. Was that the beginning of your voice as Lily Childs the horror author?
LC: Back in the olden days of the last decade I took the brave decision of joining 'Talkback', the online forum of the UK's Writing Magazine. By the Christmas of 2008 short horror fiction was almost leaking out of me and I realised I needed to do something serious about it. I didn't want to join a 'real' writers' circle because I had visions of bored vicar's wives and WI ladies writing twee verse about jam and flower arranging. Besides, I'd have had to talk to people face to face and - I know you won't believe this - but I'm very shy.
I joined Talkback in early 2009 and was immediately welcomed and offered lots of support and encouragement which gave me the confidence to start sending my work out. And that's where the marvellous Mr Col Bury came in! Col had read some of my work and suggested I might want to submit something to Thrillers Killers 'n' Chillers. So I sent him 'Fashion Victim'. It became my first online publication, and the first of many at TKnC. I haven't stopped since!
Co-editors at TKnC, Col and Matt Hilton are incredibly supportive of new writers. I'm proud to call them friends and honoured to be working with them on such a great ezine. The quality of work submitted is of such a high standard it's a joy to be able to publish, in my opinion, some of the best short fiction around at the moment. Of course we can't accept everything but each of us editors tries to give pointers and reasons for rejection. After all, we're all writers too and there's nothing so frustrating as a rejection without a clue!
CA: Let's talk a little about that dark fiction and verse for a moment. Your style is absolutely unique in that you mix Victorian elegance and visceral, gushing carnage. There's definite hints of Clive Barker to your work, but the crushed velvet opulence that often surrounds the carnage is all your own. I've often wondered if your stories all exist in the same "world." Does the dancing demon of Dressing Up Box live in the same London as Magenta Shaman?
LC: Yes, the Dressing Up Box demon exists in Magenta's everyday urban world. It has a fondness for human blood and attire, and is a lover of our cultural activities and habits. Like many other of my characters however, it probably also occupies a realm of its own, a parallel plane only thinly separated from ours. Sometimes those planes overlap, and sometimes a hole appears in the veil separating them. Perhaps that's where our dreams take place.
The crushed velvet opulence - I wear a lot of velvet, am sitting on it as I write; I'm staring at red velvet and gilt curtains... One of my favourite places in the world is Borovicks' fabric store in London's Berwick Street. Tall, thin passageways stacked with bolts of taffeta, voile, chintz, silks and more. The smell is divine, the atmosphere makes me breathless and I could roll around in the fabrics until I choked - if only they'd let me.
CA: How would you say these worlds came together when you were compiling Volume 1 of Cabaret of Dread?
LC: I think they're all over it, as much - if not more - in the short shorts that stitch the whole thing together. Of the eleven longer tales Wraiths and Stays has men descending to base hunger in all its forms whilst spectral females haunt the once-fertile lands, and Hidden Beast sees a caretaker turn feral, almost immortal.
Cabaret contains two crime stories Carpaccio and Pretty Pinholes; not supernatural but they do explore the psychological wickedness of the serial killer. I think these murderers inhabit a different existence, one of arrogance where the concept of right and wrong is irrelevant, where they are able to justify their actions. This state of being is surely and sadly one of mental illness (though this is sometimes questionable) but it is an horrendous one nonetheless that runs parallel with accepted normality.
The other stories - from the undead toys in Smiling Cyrus's attic to the ancient vampires of The Infanta Triptych - clearly blend the surreal creatures from the worst part of our imaginations with mundane human life. Demons, spirits, gods... they all converge, begging worship or sacrifice. To me, they're with us all the time. They're everywhere.
My thanks to Lily for taking the time to let us peek behind the black velvet curtain and find out more about the unique and horrifying world that spawns her stories.