Author and Scriptwriter

'Among the most important writers of contemporary British horror.' -Ramsey Campbell

Monday 21 January 2019

The Lowdown with... Tracy Fahey

Tracy Fahey is an Irish writer of Gothic fiction. Her debut collection, The Unheimlich Manoeuvre (reissued in 2018) was nominated in 2017 for a British Fantasy Award for Best Collection. Her short fiction has been published in more than twenty Irish, US and UK anthologies and her work has been reviewed in the Times Literary Supplement. In 2016 two of her short stories were long listed by Ellen Datlow for The Best Horror of the Year Volume 8. Her first novel, The Girl In The Fort (Fox Spirit Press) was published in 2017 and her second collection, New Music For Old Rituals was released by Black Shuck Books in 2018.

1. Tell us three things about yourself.
The Gothic is hardwired into my system. My PhD is on the resurrection of the Gothic home in Irish contemporary art, and my first collection, The Unheimlich Manoeuvre examines the Gothic home through a series of stories on the uncanny. I finished both thesis and collection in the same week in 2015. That was a busy week…

I’m very influenced by my upbringing and surroundings in rural Ireland. The history and nature of Irish identity and folklore runs like a seam through both my YA novel, The Girl In The Fort, and my second collection, New Music For Old Rituals.  But traveling also informs my writing; every country I’ve visited I’ve made story notes based on the different locations – I also feel that my sense of identity emerges more strongly when I’m divorced from my immediate home setting.

I’m hugely influenced by the writing of Shirley Jackson, Donna Tartt, Angela Carter, Ray Bradbury
and Tana French.

2. What was the first thing you had published?
My very first publication was of the story ‘Looking for Wildgoose Lodge’ in the Impossible Spaces anthology released by Hic Dragones. It was a wonderful start to my writing journey; for the launch I was invited to do a reading in Manchester side by side with writers Ramsey Campbell, Douglas Thompson, Tej Turner, and of course, the wonderful Simon Bestwick! [ED. Aw, shucks.]

3. Which piece of writing are you proudest of?
There are some stories I am especially fond of.  My new collection, New Music For Old Rituals, deals with the folklore I grew up with, so stories from it like ‘Buried,’ ‘The Changeling,’ and ‘The Crow War’ feel earthed in a place I know very well.
‘I Look Like You, I Speak Like You, I Walk Like You,’ from The Unheimlich Manoeuvre is also dear to me, partly because it had a difficult journey towards publication. In spite of rejections I still clung to my conviction it rang true. I think it was hard to place as the theme is a difficult one - it deals with domestic abuse - and due to the quixotic nature of the protagonist, the story doesn’t really fit comfortably into a recognisable story arc. But I persevered and it finally found a home in JU Litzone Volume 10.

4. …and which makes you cringe?

I’m not embarrassed by anything that’s in print now, but some of my teenage efforts make me giggle to recall them. I went through a phase in my early teens where I just wanted to be S.E. Hinton and I wrote solely about motorbikes and gangs and knife-fights. It was the antithesis of ‘writing what you know,’ but I had fun and I’m wholly unrepentant.

5. What’s a normal writing day like?
I don’t really have a ‘normal’ writing day, as I also work full-time; I run a fine art department, a postgraduate research centre, research and teach. So writing tends to be done early in the morning, late at night, or covertly, on breaks. That’s why I always carry a notebook and pen around with me. If I think of something I have to set it down on the page immediately. Otherwise it’s lost forever in the Great Abyss, and the older I get, the wider the Great Abyss yawns before me…
Most of the time I write and edit on my own, but this year I worked very closely with Justin Park on my reissued collection and The Black Room Manuscripts Volume IV and it was wonderful to have someone else on hand to throw ideas back and forth to, and to get immediate feedback for my suggestions. That’s why I really treasure beta readers too; sometimes I get lost in a forest of my words, and someone fresh to the situation can analyse it for me much more coherently than I’m capable of.
At weekends, or on holidays, I get the chance to write in a more focused way – to get in The Flow - and that is both wonderful and terrifying. In 2018, The Flow deserted me for a spell – the first really difficult time I’ve had since I started writing – and it took a lot of self-coaching and self-motivating to get myself back on track. Being blocked is hard, but the hardest part is believing that the blockage can shift and melt away in time. I think it’s really important to be honest about these tough times as often on social media all you can see are people’s successes and staggering word counts, but not all the crying and pacing and rending of garments that goes on in the background.

6. Which piece of writing should someone who’s never read you before pick up first?

The Unheimlich Manoeuvre summarises a lot of themes that are very central to my work; the uncanny home, domestic confinement, doppelgangers, dolls and dystopias. So if you’re curious about my (slightly) skewed world vision, pick that one up from the Sinister Horror Company.
However, if folk horror and folklore are more to your taste, I recommend either New Music For Old Rituals (from Black Shuck Books) or The Girl In The Fort (from Fox Spirit Press).

7. What are you working on now?
This year I’m already working on a couple of projects. I have a third collection in the pipeline, I Spit Myself Out, which examines terrors that come from within; from within the body or within the mind. It’s based loosely on the essay by Julia Kristeva, ‘The Powers of Horror’, just like The Unheimlich Manoeuvre was centered on Freud’s ‘The Uncanny.’ I find every collection I’ve put together needs to have a theme in my head that I can then spin a series of divergent realities around.
For the rest of 2019 I’m also working on a podcast, some non-fiction pieces, some stand-alone short fiction, a novella, and am currently co-scripting a one-off graphic novel (which is a Secret Project but a very exciting one). This year I’ve resolved to say yes more to more diverse creative projects, to push my boundaries a little and although I’m slightly scared at the prospect, it’s also quite an exhilarating thought.

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