“The Infernal History of the Ivybridge Twins” is a sort of eighteenth-century take on Lovecraftian horror. What sparked you to write a story combining the two?
Two things, mainly. I had watched Barry Lyndon, that old Kubrick film with Ryan O’Neal, and during the . . . let’s be diplomatic and say “less exciting” parts of the film (of which there are quite a few) I found myself contemplating what it might mean to combine the picaresque with necromancy. I find necromancy an entertaining profession, I love eighteenth century-style narratives, and I adore shady heroes, so it seemed a natural combination.
So anyway, I had that in the back of my head when I happened to see that Innsmouth Free Press was putting out an anthology called Historical Lovecraft, and I still had a few weeks until the deadline. I can’t really explain it, but something just fell into place for me about the project when I thought about combining my former mess of ideas with Lovecraftian horror. Usually I’m not the kind of writer who has eureka-in-the-bathtub moments, but in this case, it really was.
You’ve recently released a collection of stories chronicling the peculiar histories of the Calipash family. Will readers discover anything more about the lives of Basil and Rosemary in the book? Can we look forward to more Calipash stories in the future?
A Pretty Mouth contains five Calipash stories. “The Infernal History” is reprinted there, as is “The Hour of the Tortoise,” which first appeared in The Book of Cthulhu II. The other three are originals (including the title piece, which is a short novel).
When Cameron Pierce (my editor at Lazy Fascist Press) first contacted me after reading “The Infernal History of the Ivybridge Twins,” asking if I’d thought about writing more about the Calipash family, I pitched him the idea of doing a collection, with each of the stories being set during a different time period in English history. I had been watching a lot of Blackadder at the time. He had been, too, as it turned out, so he thought it was a swell idea. So, no, nothing directly new about Basil and Rosemary, just their past and future family members—though the stories do provide a broader perspective on those Infernal Twins.
As to whether there will be more Calipash stories, very probably! I don’t have any planned right now, but I can’t imagine I’ll be able to go too long without my Lovecraftian horror/English lit fix . . .
“The Infernal History of the Ivybridge Twins” interlaces nameless Lovecraftian horror with a certain amount of sly humor. Do you find it difficult to mix horror and humor, or do you find the two go together naturally?
For me they go together very naturally indeed, probably because I’m the kind of person who is given to laughing inappropriately when everyone else is being really serious. That tends to bleed into my work, even—perhaps especially—my Lovecraftiana. It’s weird, I think my favorite non-Lovecraft Lovecraftian story is Charles Stross’ “A Colder War,” which is straight-up cosmic horror and not at all funny, or even amusing. But the one time I tried to write a serious Lovecraftian story it was a total disaster.
Maybe it’s because I came late to Lovecraft, and my introduction began with the Stuart Gordon films Re-Animator and From Beyond. I mean, before I’d even read a single story Lovecraft himself had written I’d seen Barbara Crampton moaning in BDSM gear while Jeffrey Combs turns on that weird Resonator, stimulating her pituitary gland or whatever. And then he eats brains out of a jar. Haha! Which I think is supposed to be funny . . . maybe? Regardless, it was formative for me.
Were I to wax prosy about this subject I would say that since what people find humorous is entirely subjective—even more subjective than what people find horrifying, in a lot of ways—the humor/horror author runs an even greater risk of his or her work falling flat. But it’s a risk I’m willing to take because it’s what I love, and I’m extremely grateful so many people have found that “The Infernal History” hits that sweet spot.
What are you working on now?
I’m working on a few projects—a novella about some patients in a mental institution in Portland, OR, a short story about mummies, and some other things of a more novel-ish nature. Always a few irons in the fire!
What’s the scariest nightmare you’ve ever had?
Haha, I’m really not sure! I think I’ll cheat and instead tell the tale of how one of my nightmares scared my husband badly.
I don’t remember the details of the dream, just that it was one of those nightmares that are super-duper-realistic. I was in my own bed, in my bedroom, and there was some scary shadowy man looming in the doorway, staring at me. I guess I started saying out loud, “there’s someone in the room, oh god there’s someone in the room with us, he’s right there” whilst still dreaming/asleep, which of course woke up my husband. He shook me awake and it was fine, but to hear him tell it, there were a few moments where he was lying there with his eyes closed, hoping I was dreaming, but not sure because I was being really quiet and intense about it. I’m not sure who was more relieved that there wasn’t actually someone in the room with us!
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