Thursday, February 23, 2012

Women in Horror Month Feature: Nancy Baker

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

Nancy Baker blames her life-long love of horror and fantasy fiction on the first horror story she can remember: The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin by Beatrix Potter.  She dabbled in rock and roll (writing lyrics and singing in basement bands during her university years) before switching to writing fiction.  She made her first professional sale in 1988, to Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone magazine and has subsequently published 3 novels.  She is at work (slowly, very slowly) on her fourth – which she claims has no vampires in it.

By day, she makes her living as business manager for a large Canadian magazine publisher.

How did you get started with your writing?

I started writing fiction in about Grade 3, with a series of stories about talking cats.  I graduated into adventure stories about superheroines, spy thrillers modelled on Modesty Blaise and then finally into fantasy and horror.  My first publication was in a Canadian zine called Cadre and my first professional sale was to The Twilight Zone magazine back in the late 1980s. I have to credit the U of T Writer’s Workshop in the early 1990s with giving me the courage to submit my first vampire novel to Penguin.

How would you describe your writing?

My horror fiction is mostly psychological (not very “wet” as one observer put it) and I’ve always been more interested in exploring the consequences of the intrusion of the unknown than in violence.  My fantasy writing has the same slant, so I tend to work on a much smaller scale than the “epic battle between good and evil for the fate of the world” that’s common in fantasy.

Who are your influences?

I love writing that combines poetry and precision.  I’ve been influenced by writers like Tanith Lee, Shirley Jackson, C.J. Cherryh, Ruth Rendell, and Robin McKinley but I’d sell my soul to be able to write half as beautifully as Patricia McKillip does.

Why do you write horror?

I was drawn to horror because of its immediacy, its impact and the fact that it didn’t require the extensive world-building that fantasy does (still one of my struggles).  I loved the way a great horror short story draws you in, unsettles you, gives the knife a vicious twist and then ends, job done.  I liked the fact that there were all these pre-existing but surprisingly flexible mythologies we could use to tell the stories that interest us.  One of the strengths of vampires, for example, is that they can take so many forms, both narratively and metaphorically.

The truth is that at heart I’m probably more of a fantasy writer, despite my world-building challenges.  It was my first love and is still the primary country of my imagination.  But I’m a happy to play tourist in the horror realm on a regular basis.

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

I’d date the right vampire (definitely Dimitri Rozokov).  I’d certainly kill the wrong one (anyone who sparkles or the terrifying creature in Michael Rowe’s Enter, Night).  All monsters strike me as a bad bet for marriage (though many a story has come out of the tendency of humans to keep making that particular mistake).


Learn more about Nancy Baker at her website:!

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