"The bond between author and reader has always fascinated me. Without the reader's imagination, an author's words are dead in the dark. Only when you open their book do you make them come alive. It's like a spell. And you spread that magic because you talk about the book, post about it, or give it away to someone." - Thomas Olde Heuvelt, Hex & Echo.
This interview with Cassandra Khaw is the first in what we hope will be a lot of interviews with authors, especially authors whose books have become book club picks or will be in the future. I thought I'd leave it to a writer to explain why I wanted to start this series of author interviews and I couldn't have said it better than Thomas Olde Heuvelt above. After reading and rereading Nothing But Blackened Teeth and discussing it with our book club I was thrilled to chat with Cassandra and can't wait to read even more from them.
Stephanie Rose: The consensus of our horror book club is that we have a love/hate relationship with Nothing But Blackened Teeth but in the best possible way. What made you choose to make this story a novella and not a novel?
Cassandra Khaw: I like novellas. Something about the format speaks to me. I think it’s partially I grew up in an environment where oral ghost stories were common, and there’s always short and straight to the action. (Also I suspect some part of me is still beholden to my journalistic roots. I can’t write long without wanting to go AGH.)
SR: In a way we were all rooting for the house and its ghosts to win against the characters since what we did know about them wasn't flattering and end it all in a blood bath of everyone. We all were left wanting more. Again in the best possible way. What was your inspiration for these particular characters?
CK: Our shadow-selves. I wanted a cast of characters who said all the quiet parts outloud. There’s facets of them of in all of us, I think, whether we like to acknowledge such or not.
SR: Your prose in Nothing But Blackened Teeth is exquisite and will be making all of us read this novella over and over again. You've mentioned in past interviews that your parents insisted you watch horror movies with them when you were younger and that growing up in Malaysia, a country drenched in ghost stories, has influenced your writing. How did these two experiences influence Nothing But Blackened Teeth specifically?
CK: 'Insist' really isn't the right word here. Coerced is more correct. I think it's important to make that distinction; they weren't very nice people. That said, the gore you see is very much influenced by that. As for the ghost stories of home, well, let's just say Cat and her friends weren't the only people who gravitated towards haunted houses.
SR: Any upcoming horror projects?
CK: Lots. I can only talk about two of them, though. Both come out next year. One is a gory mash-up of The Little Mermaid, The Three Surgeons, and How Some Children Played at Slaughtering. The other is co-written with Richard Kadrey, and it’s called The Dead Takes the A Train. It’s set in New York, and there are angels, and urban fantasy tropes, and a kind of horrific reveal at some point. :D
SR: Any recent books, films, shows, or podcasts you want to recommend to our readers?
CK: Astrid & Lily Save the World! Shining Vale! Yellow Jackets! All good TV things that you absolutely should watch. I loved Impetigore too. Similarly, I highly recommend Angela Slatter’s gothic Path of Thorns, which I’ve been thinking a lot about.
Lightning Round | Altered and Borrowed from James Lipton
SR: What is your favorite word?
CK: Murmuration. I hear wingbeats when I read it.
SR: What is your least favorite word?
CK: Moist? Maybe? I don’t know if there are any that I genuinely loathe. At least not right now.
SR: What is your favorite scary movie?
CK: John Carpenter’s The Thing.
SR: What is your favorite horror book?
SR: What sound or noise do you love?
CK:That deep-in-the-bones purring my cats sometimes do.
SR: What sound or noise do you hate?
CK: The scrape of cutlery on porcelain.
SR: What is your favorite curse word?
CK: All of these: https://www.youtube.com/watch?
SR: What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
CK: I really, really wanted to be a forensic specialist when I was younger, but my mother was very clear on the topic of her eldest daughter messing with corpses.
SR: What profession would you not like to do?
CK: I did public relations for two years. You couldn’t pay me to return to the field. I cannot do that much sustained extroversion for that long. It’s just not in my nature.
SR: What author dead or alive would you want to spend the night in a haunted house with?
CK: No one. Absolutely no one. I know what happens in haunted houses, and you cannot get me to step foot in one ever again.
Cassandra Khaw writes a lot. Sometimes, they write excited tweets as the social media manager for Route 59 games. Sometimes, they write for technology and video games outlets like Eurogamer, Ars Technica, The Verge, and Engadget. And other times, they write nightmares.
Khaw's short fiction can be found in publications such as Uncanny, Clarkesworld, and Fireside Fiction. Hammers on Bone (Tor.com) is a Locus Award finalist and they have won the Deutscher Computerspielpreis in the Best Children’s Game category for She Remembered Caterpillars. (Tor Books).