Friday, February 3, 2012

Women in Horror Month Feature: Gemma Files

Throughout February, ChiZine Publications is celebrating Women in Horror Month ( by profiling our female authors and staff.

Though she was born in London, England, Gemma Files is a Canadian citizen, and has lived in Toronto for her entire life (thus far). Gemma has published two collections of short stories and two chapbooks of poetry, including Dust Radio, from Kelp Queen Press. Her first novel, published by ChiZine Publications, was A Book of Tongues: Volume One in the Hexslinger Series and it was released in April, 2010. The second Hexslinger book, A Rope of Thorns, was released in 2011 and coming up in May 2012, the third is A Tree of Bones.

How did you get started with your writing?

I graduated from Ryerson University with a Bachelor of Applied Arts in Magazine Journalism, so that was sort of the beginning of my professional writing career; but, I was first published at the age of 9. I sold a poem called "Earthquake!" to Cricket Magazine, and wrote a play called The Revenant in high school which was later performed at Brock University. The whole time I was writing articles and movie reviews for Toronto local eye Weekly, I continued to write and place short stories. My first official sale as an adult was to the now-defunct Canadian Horror anthology series Northern Frights (ed. Don Hutchison), with "Mouthful of Pins."

How would you describe your writing?

Hmmm. "Lush," I hear a lot. "Poetic." Also "overwritten," "meandering," "obscure" and occasionally "pornographic." I like to think that my strengths lie in dialogue and characterization, but my urges are always to the dark and creepy-sexy. I far prefer antiheroes to heroes. Paula Guran once said that my characters were mainly monsters rather than victims, but I managed to evoke some sympathy for them anyhow. I think that's a fairly good description of what I'm generally after.

Who are your influences?

Tanith Lee, Stephen King, Peter Straub, Clive Barker, Kathe Koja, Caitlin R. Kiernan, Poppy Z. Brite, Gwendolyn MacEwan, Susan Musgrave, Marjorie Bowen. More recently Sonya Taaffe, Nadia Bulkin, John Connolly, Jeff Long, Amanda Downum, John Langan, Laird Barron.

Why do you write horror?

Because, like Yukio Mishima, my heart's inclination has always been for Night, and Death, and Blood. Less facetiously, however, I think it began because I knew I didn't know enough about science to write science fiction and fantasy always somehow seemed too goddamn "happy" to interest me. Horror had a certain psychological realism, a rooting in the real world of shared fears, a consequential heft and weight. Then again, I tend to think of what I do as more like opera than anything else, so sometimes I just don't notice how grotesque it's actually gotten.

Horror's top creature features: who would you date, marry and kill?

I have a certain attraction towards mad scientists, but most of them would make absolutely lousy lovers, so--I could see going on a double-date with Herbert West, Re-Animator and his sidekick Dr Dan Cain (from Stuart Gordon's Re-Animator), because if nothing else, I could A) count on getting sex from Dan and B) might also be able to get Herbert to let me watch them make out, even if he wouldn't touch me himself.

In terms of marriage, I can't think of anyone more loyal and romantic than Im-Ho-Tep/Ardeth Bey, as played by Boris Karloff in Karl Freund's original The Mummy.

Even though he's my favourite monster, is quite handsome and has a sexy voice to boot, poor Jack Griffin (Claude Rains) from James Whale's The Invisible Man is just so butt-ass chemically insane that it'd be better by far to shoot him the minute you figured out where he was standing, or at least run away screaming when he started to talk.


Potent mythology, complex characters, and dollops of creeping horror and baroque gore establish Files's Hexslinger series as a top-notch horror-fantasy saga.

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