I’m really excited to introduce our next author to Women in Horror Month 2018 at Unusual Fiction. Joanne Van Leerdam is a poet, writer in many genres and of course horror lover.
In addition to writing poetry and short stories, Joanne is a teacher of English, History and Drama/Production. She is an active member and performer in her local theatre company.
Her hobbies include reading, music, travel and photography.
Joanne loves travelling, and has visited many places in Australia as well as holidaying in New Zealand, Fiji, the USA and Canada at different times.
Question 1. What drew you to horror as a genre?
I’ve always loved Bram Stoker’s Dracula and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. I also loved The Addams Family and The Munsters on TV as a kid – although they’re lighthearted, that macabre sense of humour of mine just adored them.
Question 2. What horror writers do you read?
I love the writing of D.J. Doyle, Fiona Hogan, A.M. Rycroft, A. Drew and Jesse Teller. Nikki Landis and Jane Jago also inject some lovely horror into their writing.
Question 3. What inspires your work?
I have a very strong sense of justice, so writing horror is one way I can give a little karma back to nasty people. In my stories, it could be anything from bad manners to sexual harassment that puts characters on the receiving end. It’s not always quite that obvious, though. Subtlety makes it more interesting and powerful.
Question 4. Describe your work. In what sub-genre do you write?
Rather than writing “splatter for splatter’s sake”, I seek to develop the mental and emotional horror of things as much as the physical.
‘The Silver Feather’ is a psychological horror thriller novella with a slow build toward the climax.
‘Curious Things’ is a collection of 13 stories that blend horror with dark humour.
Question 5. What are you working on at the moment?
I’m working on a series of horror short stories that will make up another book. Some of those stories are still just ideas jotted down. Others have already been written and edited. And, as always, I am still writing poetry, some of which are definitely horror, so there will likely be another book of poems this year, too.
Question 6. Discuss a favourite character in one of your stories or books?
Friday is the main character in the ‘Curious Things’ stories. He’s a black cat with an intriguing gift for being present when strange things happen to nasty people. He’s a beautiful soul with a strong sense of justice, but I have deliberately not made it clear whether or not he is responsible for those events, or whether there is other supernatural activity or magic involved. He does occasionally express his satisfaction when people get what’s coming to them, though.
Question 7. When did you start writing horror?
One weekend last year, I was reading a horror book by a traditionally published writer which was really rather lame. It was just people getting murdered in alleys and dark places without any real development or design. I thought, “This is rubbish. I could do better than this!” So, I did.
2017 was a terrible year for me personally, and I struggled a lot with the things happening around me over which I had no control. Writing horror was a way of dealing with that and taking back some control, so it was really good therapy, too.
Question 8. Show us the first paragraph of one of your horror stories or novels.
This is the opening section of ‘The Silver Feather’.
“Don’t let them bother you. They’re not worth it.”
“I know. They’re just so…”
“Yeah. They haven’t grown up yet.”
“You got that right. How are you doing today?” Phil steered the conversation to a much more pleasant topic than the guys who had been teasing him just before. And Libby was just about the most pleasant topic of conversation he could ever think of.
Libby smiled. “I’m doing okay. Too much homework and too little time to do it. But that’s life as a senior, right?”
“Don’t I know it?!” Phil groaned.
“So, what were those idiots giving you grief about?”
The doubt in her voice said she knew him too well, prompting him to be honest.
“My necklace. The feather. They think it’s girly— they don’t know what it means, though. They’re just being dumb.”
Libby looked at the silver feather that hung on the chain around Phil’s neck. “What does it mean?”
“The feather is a symbol of freedom and life. I got it on our family trip to New Mexico. There was just something about it – it spoke to me somehow. The Navajo lady who sold it to me said it would give me independence and help me free my spirit.”
Libby contemplated that for a moment. “I’ve always liked the feather, and I like what it means. I don’t think it’s girly at all.”
“Thanks. I appreciate that.”
“You’re welcome,” Libby smiled. “Speaking of homework, I’d better head off and get something done before supper. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
“Yeah, see you then.”
Phil watched Libby walk away, mentally kicking himself for not thinking of something else to talk about so she might have stayed a little longer. Probably out of my league anyway, he sighed, popping himself safely back into the friend zone.
Take a look at Joanne’s many books on her websites –