Welcome to the eleventh installment of my “Author of the Week”! These articles focus on Weird Fiction and/or Lovecraftian authors that I think more readers should know about. If you have suggestions, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
This week’s author is Livia Llewellyn. I asked Livia three questions:
How and why did you begin writing?
I don’t know why I began writing. I don’t know to this day why I write, instead of doing any number of other artistic things I’ve been drawn to over the years. I spent about twenty years pursuing a career in acting; I spent an almost equal number of years designing and sewing costumes for theatre and couture for private clients; and I’ve seriously dabbled for many years in various other fields. I could always tell you exactly why I was drawn to those other things – beauty, fame, money, posterity, blah, blah. The usual reasons.
I have no reason to write. It makes me miserable. It’s a stupendously, monstrously selfish endeavor – every story really is about me, though I might profess otherwise. It isolates me from everything and everyone – for the last ten years, I’ve spent most nights in some room, alone, in front of my computer. Ten years, and now I’m 51, far past the age of ever dating, getting married, having children. Writing has become a coffin, and I’ve got another forty years of suffocating in it alive and alone, with nothing to show except some pages with words on them that probably won’t be remembered or read after I’m dead.
Maybe I write because in a way, each story is a do-over of my life. For some small moment in each thing I write, before all the shit and horror and darkness settles over the protagonist, there’s a moment of happiness or power or love or understanding. There’s a moment when it could all change, when she could walk away, make a different decision. Maybe I’m looking for that moment before it all went so laughably bad in my own life, when everything started to close in and close off, when I stood on the road unable to move, while the rest of the human race traveled past me. Because, if I can pinpoint that moment, then…? I don’t know. Honestly, I don’t think I’ll ever know, and maybe that’s how it should be.
What is it about Lovecraftian horror and Weird Fiction that appeals to you?
So much of Lovecraftian and weird fiction is based on the state of not knowing. I think as humans we go out of our way to convince ourselves that we know everything, that every moment in our life is in control, and that we can control everything around and outside of us. The contortions we go through as both individuals and an entire race to perpetuate this illusion is ridiculous, almost obscene. There’s a kind of freedom in confronting and/or embracing the chaotic unknown, but few people truly give themselves over to that state, even in slivers. Art allows us, at least for the first encounter, the opportunity to momentarily reach that state, but once we’ve experienced it, once we know the ending or read the spoilers, it’s gone. But some art transcends that – some art is able to provide us with multiple moments of unknowing and “uncontrol”, even through multiple interactions and viewings. An essential part of Lovecraftian and weird fiction is that many of its components are hidden from the readers’ view – forbidden knowledge, unnamable creatures, alien motivations, states of being and realities that cannot be described or defined. Even the writer may not know the “truths” behind what they’re writing – and that’s what appeals to me. It’s a sort of leap of faith that you start writing the story and may not know why you’re writing it or what it’s even about, but that the act of not knowing is permissible, and even liberating. Because without expectations, you can’t control the experience or outcome, and that opens your writing – that opens you as an artist – up to ideas that might never have occurred to you otherwise.
Which of your books do you recommend that readers begin with?
I only have one book out – my collection, Engines of Desire: Tales of Love & Other Horrors, which was published in 2011 by Lethe Press. However, I also have a number of stories that have been published or podcast online. (Links below.)
“It Feels Better Biting Down” at Nightmare Magazine
“Jetsam”, at Nightmare Magazine
“The Engine of Desire”, at Weird Fiction Review
“Vermeer Blue” and “Crossing the Horizon”, at Thaumatrope
“Her Deepness”, at Subterranean Press
“The Four Hundred Thousand”, at Subterranean Press
“The Engine of Desire”, at PseudoPod
“Brimstone Orange”, at PseudoPod
Thanks to Livia for answering my questions — be sure to check out her book, Engines of Desire: Tales of Love & Other Horrors.
(Previous “Authors of the Week”: Richard Gavin, Molly Tanzer, William Holloway, Brian Hodge, Elizabeth Bear, Don Webb, Nathan Ballingrud, Stephen Mark Rainey, Scott Jäeger, John Claude Smith.)