The great thing about this series of “Interview With” is the difference in each writer’s style of writing horror – from goth writers to those with a penchant for grimdark fiction, paranormal tales, ghost stories to poetry. I’m really excited to have today’s author on Unusual Fiction – Caroline. E. Farrell is not only a novelist but also a screenwriter and Director.
Caroline E. Farrell is a writer and filmmaker from Dublin, Ireland. She is the author of the novels, ARKYNE, STORY OF A VAMPIRE, and LADY BETH, recent winner of Best Novel at The CAP Awards 2017. She has recently written and directed FRAMED, a Gothic horror short film, and has also written several feature length and short screenplays including ADAM  and the multi-award winning IN RIBBONS . Caroline, a qualified Librarian, now works as a freelance Cultural Event Manager, teaches creative writing and holds a H Dip in Adult Education. She is a member of the Writers Guild of Ireland, the Irish Writers Union and the Irish Film and Television Academy.
Question 1. What drew you to horror as a genre?
I have always been fascinated with the complexities of human nature, specifically the unexplained, the uncanny, the strange and the magical. Real life is often frightening, and can be overwhelming at times. Horror fiction is escapism. We can explore the complex issues of life, death and everything in between – be frightened between the safety of the pages – but still control the level and intensity of that experience. With horror too, often comes humour, which allows us to explore the darker side of humanity with a safety net!
Question 2. Which horror writers do you read?
From the classics, Bram Stoker and Edgar Allen Poe, though in the case of the latter, I need to revisit the author’s stories as it has been a while! I have also read Sheridan LeFanu’s ‘Carmilla’ who still holds her own as one of the scariest vampires ever, and was probably the original female bloodsucker to be committed to literature, if I am not mistaken, a couple of decades before Stoker’s Dracula. Even though I have seen ‘The haunting of Hill House’ film many times, I was late in discovering Shirley Jackson’s books. I have rectified that now, and loved her novel, ‘We have always lived in the Castle’. Of contemporary horror writers, David Mitchell, Stephen King, Joe Hill, and I am just getting into the work of Joyce Carol Oates.
Question 3. Pick a favourite horror story or book?
Peter Straub’s novel ‘Ghost Story’ is a favourite book, also adapted to film in 1981. Concerning a group of elderly men, The Chowder Club, complicit in their sharing of a terrible secret, and who become haunted by a young woman, it is a compelling and well-written story of supernatural revenge.
Question 4. Tell us about your favourite horror film, one you have in your horror collection.
‘The Innocents’ (1961) directed by Jack Clayton and starring Deborah Kerr, is a film that I watch time and again. Adapted from the Henry James novel, ‘The turn of the Screw’, it is pure Gothic horror at its best, a timeless classic, with all the elements that make for a spine-chilling viewing experience. What works so brilliantly in this film is the power of suggestion throughout. Is the house haunted? Are the children troubled, or worse, possessed? Or is it all in the imagination of the new governess, Miss Giddens? Films that feature children in perilous or psychologically challenged situations can be seriously frightening when done right. ‘The Innocents’ works on so many levels. Free from the run-of-the-mill shock tactics and filmed in black and white, the setting of the rambling Gothic mansion, the chilling soundtrack and the subtleness of the cinematography and production design blend beautifully to cast dark suspense on the themes of some pretty disturbing subject matter.
Question 5. Discuss a favourite character in one of your stories or books.
I love all of my characters, or I wouldn’t be able to write them into life, but I’ll pick Budgie, the elderly grandmother of Caleb, the young male protagonist in ‘Arkyne, story of a Vampire’. Budgie is a white witch, who uses her natural magic to bring comfort and help to her loved ones. Immersed in nature and in sync with the elements, she is all-seeing and is the representation of light in the world of darkness that her grandson descends into. She lives by her intuition and by the ancient wisdom and guidance of her ancestors, whom she communicates with through prayer and ritual. Unfortunately for Budgie, her unwavering love for Caleb draws her towards a perilous fate. Though obviously not under such dramatic circumstances as those in the novel, I truly believe that some of us are lucky enough to encounter characters like ‘Budgie’ in our everyday lives. If we are paying attention! People who walk with an aura of pureness and light that draws you to them, male or female, even fleetingly, and who, through nothing you can quite put your finger on, enhance and improve your life through their connection.
Question 6. Show us the first paragraph of one of your horror stories/novels.
“Coco De Rais strode purposefully through the grounds of her home, a seventeenth century château overlooking the French village of Tiffauges. It was late in the evening, the end of summer, and the château, perched high and austere amidst the borderlands of the Vendee, was bathed in the golden hue of sand stone.
Breathing through her irritation, and with a flashlight shining low and discreet on the path before her, her pace quickened, and she didn’t even stop to admire, as was her habit, the magical blanket of moon dust now reflecting off the ivy-leaved façade of the sumptuous building. Her papa, Henri, had upset her again and she was frowning, her wild black hair falling across her face to flap in unison with her furious footsteps, gravel crunching beneath her thick-soled black boots.
In contrast, with its soothing liquid timbre snaking a path through the grounds, melodious ripples emerged from the Qui Donne La Vie, a tributary of the nearby Crúme River. She had once overheard her papa tell her aunt Anna how insignificant the little river had been, remaining untitled for centuries. Until he had brought Coco’s mother, Sophia, here, and she had instantly christened it The Giver of Live. Appropriate, she had heard him add wistfully, for that was exactly what Sophia had been. Not just in the physical sense of bringing Coco into the world, but also in the bringing of life to the château; and to him.
She clenched her teeth now as like a song she thought she ought to remember, but couldn’t, the water’s melody transported her to a moment lost, a vague remembrance that refused to clarify itself, no matter how hard she concentrated. Coco had finally succumbed to her acceptance of the notions that had been crowding her thoughts for some time. Like the fact that even when on her own, she never really felt that way. That another walked with her, unseen yet sensed in her bones, and was here now, with her on this path that she had walked so often.”
Question 7. What was the first work of horror to scare you as a child?
‘When Marnie was There’ by Joan G. Robinson. The story of a lonely little girl, Anna, who goes to stay with her aunt and meets ‘Marnie’. This book scared me at the time, yet compelled me to remember the story ever since. Was Marnie a ghost, or merely a figment of Anna’s imagination? The child in me completely believed the former! The book was originally published in 1967, but in 2014, Studio Ghibli of Japan, adapted the story to film animation.
Question 8. What are you working on at the moment?
I have just directed a short film, FRAMED, a gothic horror, surprise surprise!! The editing process is just beginning, and I am very excited about it. It will begin its festival journey this year. I am also working on my next novel, IONA’S HOUSE, an urban ghost story, due for publication in 2018, and no doubt, my beloved Gothic influences are driving that narrative too!
For information on all Caroline’s work check out the links below –