A bit about Priya…
Priya Sharma’s fiction has appeared in venues such as Interzone, Black Static, Nightmare, The Dark, and Tor. She’s been anthologized in many of Ellen Datlow’s Best Horror of the Year series and Paula Guran’s Year’s Best Dark Fantasy & Horror series, among others.
“Fabulous Beasts” was a Shirley Jackson Award finalist and won a British Fantasy Award for Short Fiction. Priya is a Shirley Jackson Award and British Fantasy Award winner and Locus Award finalist for “All the Fabulous Beasts”, a collection of some of her work, available from Undertow Publications.
“Ormeshadow”, her first novella (available from Tor), won a Shirley Jackson Award and a British Fantasy Award.
Q1. Priya, it’s wonderful to have you with us! Tell us a bit about yourself and your writing process.
Thank you for having me here on Literary Retreat.
I write mainly short stories- dark fantasy, fairy tales, alternative history, horror, and some SF. I’ve been fortunate enough to work with editors like Ellen Datlow, Paula Guran, Mark Morris, and Andy Cox, at venues like Interzone, Black Static and Tor.com
About half of my short stories were collected as “All the Fabulous Beasts” in 2018 and my first novella, “Ormeshadow”, appeared in 2019.
I enjoy writing for themed anthologies where editors give me a lot of latitude to explore. I’ll often start with a series of thumbnail sketches then research as I go. It’s not always a linear process. I like to work up a series of key plot points, then expand as I rewrite. Those initial points may change, which is fine. The most daunting thing for me is having an opening and no clue where I need to go next with it. It induces paralysis. I try to end a writing session when I know what the next thing I need to write is, then pick up from that point at the next session. Characters are the key to developing stories. Once they’re vivid enough in my mind, that is the time that the story starts to really work- any action must be in keeping with their personalities and motivations.
Q2. What got you into horror?
I loved fantasy, horror, and sci-fi growing up. I was born and live in the UK- so I loved things like “Armchair Thriller”, “Dr. Who”, “Star Wars”, Alfred Hitchcock and Roald Dahl’s books. As a teenager, I discovered “Twin Peaks”, Ray Bradbury, Daphne du Maurier, and Stephen King.
Curiosity got me into horror. As a child I wanted to see what was behind the door or under the bed- first literally and then metaphorically. I was drawn to secrets. Horror is stuffed with the big questions of how we survive in the face of the unknown and unexpected. What it means to be a small and fragile human at the mercy of bigger forces.
Q3. What do you feel most influences your storytelling? (Ex: Books you’re reading at the time, movies/TV shows, daily life events, etc.)
All writers are magpies. Everything we absorb influences what we write in some way. Inspiration can come from a news story, something you read, a painting, or a photograph.
I’m a big fan of research- it’s the geek in me. The small details, used with care, make for great world-building – and the world needs to be bigger in your head than on the page. I once wrote a story for Ellen Datlow’s “Mad Hatters and March Hares” called “Mercury”. It was about the Mad Hatter character. Hatters in the Victorian period used mercury in hat production. I read medical journals for information on mercury poisoning, read books on Lewis Carroll, and visited a hat museum in Stockport.
Q4. What are your Top 5 Must Watch/Read horror recommendations?
- Watch: Let The Right One In (the original version- I actually prefer the film to the novel)
- Read: Beloved by Toni Morrison (gothic themes rooted in the real world horror of slavery)
- Read: Things We Lost In The Fire by Mariana Enriquez (all the gothic tropes but against the backdrop of Argentina’s abandoned torture cells, slums, police corruption, child poverty and abuse. Recommended by superb horror author Paul Tremblay)
- Read: Starve Acre by Andrew Michael Hurley (English folk horror)
- Look at: Francis Bacon paintings (they evoke a visceral reaction between nausea and horror)
Ask me tomorrow and the list will be different.
Q5. Any exciting upcoming projects?
My novella, Ormeshadow, has just been published in France by Le Bélial’ Éditions, which is very exciting. Later this year I have stories in two new open-themed horror anthologies – “Dark Stars” (edited by John Taff for Nightfire) and “Beyond The Veil” (edited by Mark Morris for Flame Tree Press). There’re a few other story acceptances that I can’t talk about yet. I’m also working on a new novella. It’s dark fantasy rather than horror.