This year's Fantasycon will be a major event for the fantastic Thana Niveau, as it sees the launch of both her new short story collection Octoberland (PS Publishing) and her debut novel, The House of Frozen Screams (Horrific Tales0. So I thought I'd ask her a few questions about them. And about writing. And things.
Are you a Planner or a Pantser?
of both! I’m definitely not an outline-the-whole-project writer, as
half the joy for me is seeing where the story and characters lead me.
I usually start with an image or a character and then start writing
to see what happens. Obviously this means cutting a lot of false
starts and side quests, but sometimes these brainstorms get
repurposed in other stories. Only very rarely does an idea come to me
fully formed, where I visualise an entire story. Names, however, do
get obsessively planned. Sometimes you can spot their significance
and other times they’ll only have meaning for me.
Do you aim for a set number of words or pages per day? If not, how do
you mark progress on your work?
tried to do the word count thing, but it feels constricting and tends
to stifle my creativity. If I’m up against a deadline, forcing a
set number of words per day can help, but sometimes I’ll find
myself piling on the adjectives near the end purely to hit the
target, stuff I’ll just delete the next day. If I’m feeling
uninspired, I’ll jump to a moment I really want to write, or follow
a whim, knowing it might lead nowhere. So a set daily word count
isn’t terribly useful for me. As for marking progress, I suppose I
just have some abstract concept of how long the story will be, what
percentage I’ve written, and how much further there is to go.
Are there any themes or subjects you keep coming back to?
There was a Facebook game a while back: “You know you’re in a ___
story when…” That was fun because I’d never really noticed how
many pet themes I have. I write a lot about siblings who are very
close, as well as father/daughter relationships. The sea features in
quite a few stories, and very often the water itself is a character.
I also love to get into the POV of abstract things or ideas - like
the burgeoning sentience of AI or bodiless aliens in space who have
no language. I’m good at making the writing really difficult for
myself sometimes! LOL But these are the kinds of ideas that fascinate
me and inspire me to write in the first place.
If you had to sum up your novel The
House of Frozen Screams
in a sentence, what would it be?
and Liz are happily married and don’t want children. But the house
they’ve just moved into does.
What was the genesis of The
House of Frozen Screams?
Haunting of Hill House
is one of my all-time favourite books, and I love the relationship
Eleanor has with the house. I wanted to explore the personality,
motives and history of a haunted house of my own, and the effects it
has on its occupants. What would a house want
What was the biggest difference, for you, between writing short
stories and writing your first novel?
it’s technically not my first novel. LOL There’s the one I wrote
years ago that went through the whole acceptance/editing/proofs
process with a very dodgy publisher who then vanished into thin air.
For years the book was “available” on Amazon even though it
didn’t exist, and I was finally able to get them to pull the
listing. I was so disillusioned by the experience I haven’t looked
at it since. But I think about digging it out sometimes, updating and
sorry - I got off on a tangent! I’m definitely more of a novel
I do love reading short stories, but I prefer the immersive
experience of a novel. And I prefer living in one single world for
extended periods as a writer as well. But I have too many shorter
ideas not to get them down first, which pushes all my longer ideas to
the back of the queue. Some ideas are clearly only short story ones;
that is, a novel couldn’t sustain them. But many of them feel like
whole worlds I could explore further, and I find myself saddened that
I can’t. I often have to trim them to fit a given word count. With
House of Frozen Screams,
I found myself having to check the instinct to trim, to “get to the
point” of a scene more quickly because I was going to run out of
space. It was a real luxury to have the room to spread out and
explore everything in the story.
is your second full-length collection. How do you think it differs
from your first, From
Hell To Eternity,
and from your micro-collection, Unquiet
collects more recent stories than From
Hell to Eternity,
so (hopefully) my writing has grown and matured. I think I was a lot
more confident with the stories in Octoberland
as well, much more willing to take chances.
features four connected stories, and the theme I chose was water.
I’ve written a lot of stories about the sea, diving, snow, a
drowned Earth, etc. So those ideas run through all three collections,
and I can think of at least three more stories out there in
anthologies that are set in the ocean.
your favourite story from Octoberland?
that’s a tough one. “The Calling of Night’s Ocean” is one of
my very favourites. (That’s the one that’s partly written from a
dolphin’s POV.) But the title story “Octoberland” is special to
me as well. There’s quite a lot in it that’s not fiction. Dani
Serra’s cover art beautifully illustrates the mood I was aiming
for: “gothic Bradbury”.
If you could put one piece of work into a time capsule for the
future, what would it be?
one of my SF stories, just to see if my apocalyptic visions came to
pass! I think I’d choose “And Fade Out Again”, which is set in
a future flooded Earth, with the remnants of humanity living in a
sunken city grown from the Eden Project in Devon. (It’s in Great
British Horror vol 2: For Those in Peril,
from Black Shuck Books.)
What does the future hold for Thana Niveau?
continue to dream of uploading my mind into an android body while I
expand my SF writing. I’ve been toying with the idea of a new
pseudonym for SF, and keeping “Thana Niveau” purely for horror.
have two separate SF novels in the works, but in between I’m also
writing several horror short stories. (It’s hard to say no when
you’re invited!) In addition, I’m working on a Midnight Movies
monograph about one of my all-time favourite films: The
But my desktop is littered with works in progress because I find it
difficult to focus only on one project at a time. This is why I need
a biotech upgrade!
Thana Niveau was born to the wail of the Wendigo and the whisper of
warp engines. She is a Halloween bride, sharing her life with fellow
scribe John Llewellyn Probert, in a crumbling gothic tower filled with
arcane books and curiosities. And toy dinosaurs.
Messages from the beyond: thana.niveau * gmail * com