Throughout February, ChiZine Publications is celebrating Women in Horror Month (http://www.womeninhorrormonth.com/) by profiling our female authors and staff.
Halli Villegas is the author of three collections of poetry, Red Promises, In the Silence Absence Makes and The Human Cannonball, and several anthology pieces. She has published online erotica under a pen name. Her poetry and prose have appeared in places such as the LRC, Exile, Kiss Machine, Pagitica and, most recently, Variety Crossings and The Windsor Review. Halli has received funding for her writing from the OAC Works in Progress in 2006, the TAC mid-level writers in 2007 and 2009, and the OAC Works in Progress in 2009.
She is also the publisher of Tightrope Books and the administrative director of the Rowers Pub Reading Series.
How did you get started with your writing?
I wrote all my life but I never thought seriously about being a writer until I took a writing workshop with Dr. Bruce Meyer at U of T many years ago. He introduced me to my first publisher and the rest is history. I started out writing poetry and the odd short piece for anthologies and such, but my heart has always belonged to horror. I wrote a few stories and loved doing it so much I kept going. Now I am working on a novel. The kind words that Ellen Datlow gave me on my first book, The Hair Wreath, and her encouragement when I met her in person has been a big incentive to keep on writing. Sandra Kasturi has also been a huge supporter and made me feel like this is something I could do.
How would you describe your writing?
A lot of my writing comes from my dreams, or ideas that occur to me after a dream. It is more psychological horror then gory horror, or horror that has a neat conclusion (like the typical "Oh! It's because they were living on an old Indian burial ground. Who would have thought?" school of horror). I like to use contemporary settings - suburban or urban - that are not on the surface creepy, but have an underbelly of dystopia. I try to have a sense of uneasiness in my writing, and moments that make your skin crawl. I don’t like to provide easy answers to the questions I raise.
Who are your influences?
There have been a lot of influences on my writing and the list constantly grows. Some of my all time favourites are Kelly Link, Shirley Jackson, Joyce Carol Oates, Ian McEwan, Edith Wharton, Henry James, those cheap true ghost story books that were popular in the 70’s, and books on epidemiology.
Of course Stephen King’s The Shining is still a huge influence, just like The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson.
Why do you write horror?
I write horror because I love it. We are a family of ghost story tellers, superstitious and haunted by all sorts of personal demons set down in the very white bread, upscale, perfect suburb of Grosse Pointe Michigan. I spent a lot of my childhood in my friend’s houses wondering what was behind the closed doors, hearing muffled arguments or crying in other rooms. I saw dead squirrels crushed in the street by soccer moms in shiny SUV’s rushing to get their blond children to the game. The streets just over the border where the houses were burnt out, abandoned and no one walked down them. It seemed and still seems to me that there is something there, some message, clue or pattern, and I write to try to put my finger on it, but it always remains just out of reach.
Horror's top creature features: who would you date, marry and kill?
I don’t think I would date or marry any characters in horror. Most of them are headed for disaster, or are sociopathic, or just plain nuts. I’ve spent my life trying to avoid that in relationships.
I would like to kill Sloan Man, because his picture scares the shit out of me and gave me one of the worst nightmares I’ve had in a long time. Since he is the Chizine mascot I am constantly being confronted with his face. Someday I’m going to rip it off their banner and stomp on it.
A touch of magical realism, a whiff of the dark. Great emotional intensity is wrought in only a few pages. Domestic skirmishes, open ended mysteries and always—in the midst of life—the delicate scent of corruption. Villegas's fresh voice promises a great future in speculative literature.
Buy The Hair Wreath Here!