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Horror Street: Interview with Mary SanGiovanni

Creato il 01 novembre 2011 da Alessandro Manzetti @amanzetti
Horror Street: Interview with Mary SanGiovanni
Interview with horror writer Mary SanGiovanni:
[Alessandro Manzetti] I read that you have an irrational fear of masks and mannequins, faceless things. The thing struck me. Is what is hidden behind the appearance, or within us, to scare you? Or you imagine a new reality that comes to life out of nothing, from simple materials and objects? Are your stories inspired by these fears?
[Mary SanGiovanni] I think what it is that scares me is that faces are the first thing humans use to size each other up, to determine if someone is a potential threat or potential mate.  Masks and faceless things blind that sense, in a way.  I think it's the not knowing, the idea that something alien and hostile could be masquerading as one of us.  And I think that monsters masquerading as people we want so desperately to love and trust finds its way into my fiction all the time.
[Alessandro Manzetti] You have earned a Masters degree in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University, Pittsburgh,  you studied under authors like Gary Braunbeck and Tom Monteleone. What has added and what has taken off this experience to your writing?
[Mary SanGiovanni] My time at Seton Hill was invaluable.  In addition to the support and inspiration, we looked in depth at the different elements that make a story work, not just from the experience and point of view of our own genre, but from other genres as well.  If horror is the genre of atmosphere, then romance can teach us about relationships between characters and sf can teach us about research and technical accuracy, just as suspense teaches us tighter plotting and fantasy teaches us seamless world-building.  I feel my writing improved immensely because of my experience at Seton Hill.
Horror Street: Interview with Mary SanGiovanni
[Alessandro Manzetti] Your first work was the collection Under Cover of Night (2002), from the horror genre you move into science fiction and fantasy themes. Can you tell us the plot of the story you care about most and tell us something about that period in your life?
[Mary SanGiovanni] I guess my favorite story in that collection was Skincatchers a noir mystery/horror story that takes place in the early sixties involving a detective investigating a series of brutal homicides.  He comes to discover that these homicides are part of a very specific ritual centuries old.  This story was one of my first pro sales (it sold to the Best of Horrorfind II anthology originally).  I was still very much in the experimental phase of my early writing career, trying out different styles, trying to find my own voice. I wanted to write about the kind of religion that might be developed by entities we would come to think of as monsters. 
[Alessandro Manzetti] Your first novel was The Hollower (2007), nominated for the Bram Stoker Award. It is a dark and disturbing story: an entity, or paranormal creature, called the Hollower, fighting against a group of people who from victims become hunters. You dig into the character humanity, The Hollower seems to be the faceless trigger of our deepest fears, the one that is already within us. You convince us that the demons of the unconscious may be the pure fear without return. A fear without boundaries, always lurking behind the door. Who is The Hollower for you? Is the human psyche really more shocking the Hell?
[Mary SanGiovanni] For me, the Hollower is that little voice I think most of us experience that tells us not to bother, that we can't do something, that we're not good enough, that we should just give up.  It's the worst in us trying to tear down the best in us, and honestly, I think that's exactly what hell is - an eternity of inescapable derision of our own making.  I think nothing can hurt us psychologically so much as the way we can hurt ourselves. The Hollower is that, in essence; it feeds on our being broken down by our own weaknesses, fears, and insecurities.
[Alessandro Manzetti] Is there a place or an event related to your childhood that inspired your stories? What are the sources of your imagination?
[Mary SanGiovanni] For reasons I'm only recently fully exploring, there are woods on the far side of my neighborhood which, when I think of basic, primal fear, I picture. To the best of my recollection, nothing bad ever happened to me there, but all the places in my childhood which were creepy and threatening don't seem to encapsulate fear the way those woods do, for some reason.  When I'm looking for inspiration, I look to the visual, because I think in very visual terms.  I find art often triggers ideas.
[Alessandro Manzetti] In an interview you say that your favourite novels are the classics like The Shining by Stephen King, The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson, and maybe The Audrey's Door by Sarah Langan, even though you haven’t finished reading the book at that time. So, the novel has convinced you? What struck you about the Sarah Langan’s writing, do you think there are points of contact with your writing?
[Mary SanGiovanni] I think Sarah's an amazing writer; she has a firm control of her voice and a musical subtlety which I admire and aspire to refining my own writing like. I'd like to think I'm progressing in a more literary vein, but I think Sarah can write circles around me.
Horror Street: Interview with Mary SanGiovanni
[Alessandro Manzetti] Your second novel, Found You (2008), is the sequel to The Hollower. What shall we discover in this book about this evil entity, which is fed by our fears? And how many other new dimensions of ourselves shall we find?
[Mary SanGiovanni] This book introduces a stronger kind of Hollower, and delves a little further into the Hollowers' origins and beliefs, although not so much as the forthcoming third book.  I think this book is darker, and is bleaker than the first one.  There's a heavier, despairing quality to it.  I wrote it during an incredibly busy and stressful time in my life, and I think that shows through.
[Alessandro Manzetti] How do you build a character, where does the creative process start?
[Mary SanGiovanni] I always start with characters, and as I get to know them, a situation drops into their laps.  I get to know a character in my head for a while before I write.  I like to know what the character looks like, sounds like, what music he or she listens to, what quirks he or she has.  And the story always seems to arise as a "let me tell you about this one time I was almost killed" sort of thing.
[Alessandro Manzetti] Your last novel is Thrall (2011), a living city immersed in a supernatural fog, with mysterious statues that watch as a terrible guardians .. once again humans will have to deal with the Evil, which is never extinguished.  This book is your best novel? How much were you inspired by Stephen King’s stories and settings?
[Mary SanGiovanni] I believe it's my best novel, yes. It's certainly my favorite.  I'd say maybe The Mist might have been a subconscious influence, but really, what i find most pleasurable and inspiring about King's work is the creation of very real, sometimes very flawed characters, who manage to find a wellspring of strength inside them, no matter how deeply buried.
Horror Street: Interview with Mary SanGiovanni
[Alessandro Manzetti] You recently published a novella, For Emmy (2011), which tackles a sensitive topic, such as missing persons, especially children. Why did you choose this theme? Where will take us your story, shall we find or lose something?
[Mary SanGiovanni] I'm told For Emmy is the darkest and possibly the scariest thing I have ever written, and I think that's because my own deep fear of children going missing must come through.  This story includes real statistics about the number of people who go missing in this country. Many, many people are never found, and it's really pretty scary how easy it is for people to simply vanish without a trace.  I wrote it during a very dark and painful period, and so I think I tapped into a fear that matched that level of darkness.  I wanted to write about where those people go, and why they don't come back, and what might happen to them wherever they go.
Horror Street: Interview with Mary SanGiovanni
And now two Horror Street classic questions:
[Alessandro Manzetti] In this heading we try to learn about new landscape of horror literature, through direct experience of the authors. What are the new trend of horror? Could you name some new authors who are conducting original projects?
[Mary SanGiovanni] I think women are coming into their own this last decade, and they're bringing with them a unique and sensual perspective to horror.  I think we're starting to see a shift from the visceral back to the cerebral, and even into the surreal.  I think horror literature (movies still have a ways to catch up) is being more seamlessly blended into other genres, especially suspense.  Some new authors running the full range of the horror subgenres include Kelli Owen, Bob Ford, and Nate Southard; I've also heard great things about Lee Thompson and John Jacob Horner.
[Alessandro Manzetti] We leave the reader to imagine of walking along a dark and lonely road going back home, and having to turn the corner. Who (or what) does he find around the corner?
[Mary SanGiovanni] A man who looks exactly like he does, only devoid of those things that make a man human.  A reflection faded in color, a man left-handed where he is right-handed.  A man who walks backward and moves wrong and unhinges his jaw to wail.  A doppleganger bent on swallowing the man whole and absorbing his essence and taking over his life and all that he loves.
Interview by Alessandro ManzettiHWA Coordinator Italy

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