Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Women in Horror Month Feature: Sandra Kasturi

Throughout February, ChiZine Publications is celebrating Women in Horror Month (http://www.womeninhorrormonth.com/) by profiling our female authors and staff.

Sandra Kasturi is a poet, writer, and editor, as well as co-creator of a kids animated TV series. In 2005, she won ARC magazine's annual Poem of the Year award. She is the poetry editor of ChiZine: Treatments of Light and Shade in Words and the Co-Publisher of ChiZine Publications. Her work has appeared in various magazines and anthologies, including Prairie Fire, Contemporary Verse 2, TransVersions, On Spec, Taddle Creek, several of the Tesseracts series, 2001: A Science Fiction Poetry Anthology, and Northern Frights 4. Sandra is a founding member of the Algonquin Square Table poetry workshop and runs her other imprint, Kelp Queen Press. Her first full-length poetry collection, The Animal Bridegroom (Tightrope Books). She is represented by the Anne McDermid Agency, and is currently working on her first novel, a mythological noir.

How did you get started with your writing?
I always made up stories, even as a toddler. My mom tells me about a time when I told her about a yellow bird in a tree, and the bird had a blue umbrella. Or a blue bird with a yellow umbrella? I don't know. I was two or three at the time. Eventually when I was in summer camp, my friends and I made up imaginary countries with characters and stuff. It was all incredibly detailed! All massively influenced by Lewis and Tolkien, of course, with maybe a soupçon of Doc Savage (yes, really), Frank Herbert and Ursula LeGuin thrown in, plus a dash of X-Men and Avengers. Then in the winter we wrote letters back and forth with maps and descriptions and so on. Interestingly enough, one of the friends I did this with was Kirsten Bakis, who of course went on to become a writer too!

How would you describe your writing?

I write poetry that non-poets like. I suspect that most "real" poets (i.e. people in the CanLit community) think my poetry's frivolous. I think the problem is that it's pretty easy to understand. If I wrote difficult verse, no doubt I'd be the toast of the town, but I don't have the patience to write things that require a lot of effort to read. I mean, then I wouldn't want to read them either, you know? Helen Marshall said something very nice recently, that my fiction gets at the emotional heart of things...or something like that. I can't find the exact quote.

Honestly, I find it very difficult to describe my writing, because so often I feel like it just happens, it's not something I actively plan. And when I DO plan, the end product is never quite what I'd intended anyway. Sometimes that's great, other times, not so much. And sometimes I'm trying to genuinely say something. But not always. Sometimes I'm just trying to amuse myself. 

Who are your influences?
The list is very long. I have a very bad habit of writing a lot like whoever I'm reading. But, the short list would be: Ursula LeGuin, Stephen King, Peter Straub, Jonathan Carroll, Tana French, Donna Tartt, Agatha Christie, Fay Weldon, Anne Sexton, P.K. Page, W.B. Yeats, C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Lewis Carroll, Frank Herbert, Iain Banks (with M and without), J.K. Rowling, Hans Christian Anderson, the Brothers Grimm, Oscar Wilde, Charles Perrault, the Greek and Norse myths, Estonian folklore, Sri Lankan fables, Beatrix Potter, Susan Cooper, Phillip Pullman, Robert Lawson, Andrew Lang, Frances Hodgson Burnett, Rumer Godden, Edward Eager, Norma Johnston, William Sleator, E. Nesbit, Roald Dahl (both adult and children's stuff), those Alfred Hitchcock short story anthologies, Susie Moloney, Dick Francis, Robert B. Parker, Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, Sue Grafton, Anne McCaffrey, Gerard Manley Hopkins, L.M. Montgomery, L.M. Boston, Phyllis Gotlieb, Guy Kay, Steven Erikson, Anthony Boucher, Shirley Jackson, "Night on Bald Mountain" from "Fantasia," Jon & Vangelis's "The Friends of Mr. Cairo," single-malt scotch, my great-aunt Toni, sea otters holding hands. And a whole bunch of ChiZine authors, natch.

Why do you write horror?
I tend to be all over the spec fic map, not just in horror; but I think I do tend to write toward the darker end of things. It's probably because I'm so well-adjusted.

Okay, seriously? Maybe because I read the original versions of fairy tales at a very young age. Also, my father took me to a lot of inappropriate movies when I was young. I think he really didn't have any idea what would be okay for a six-year-old, so I saw a lot of Hitchcock movies and other thrillers way too young. But then, I always think kids are very attuned to the dark side of things. To them, the monster in the closet is real. Think about that for a minute. Could you sleep if you were 100% certain that there was something waiting to kill you each night? Kids know all about unfairness and injustice and powerlessness and the sheer effort of getting through the day. Maybe horror is about tuning in to your childhood?

But really, horror is about optimism. I mean, it's about good vs. evil. And frankly, good wins more often than not. If that's not optimism (vs. grim reality), then I don't know what is. 

Horror's top creature features: who would you date, marry and kill?
I'd date the Wolfman, because he'd be an animal in the sack. But you'd have to avoid him when he was having his monthlies, of course. I would marry Dracula, because then I'd have a title and land, plus my days to myself. I'd kill the Blob. It had no business being here in the first place.

The Animal Bridegroom is a wonderful showcase for Sandra Kasturi's work—she has a lot to say and hundreds of ways to say it. Filled with poetry of sheer, spinning invention and genuine passion, none of it comfortable or conventional, this long-awaited book is a genuine pleasure to read.
Peter Straub


Buy The Animal Bridegroom here

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