Claire Fitzpatrick is an author of speculative fiction and non-fiction. She won the 2017 Rocky Wood Award for Non-Fiction and Criticism. Called ‘Australia’s Queen of Body Horror’ and ‘Australia’s Body Horror Specialist’, she enjoys writing about anatomy and the darker sides of humanity. She eats the skin of kiwifruit and likes to take notes about people on the train. She lives in Brisbane.
KR: Could you tell me a little about yourself please?
Hey there. I’m Claire. About me? I have a six-year-old daughter, am currently reading ‘The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle’ by Stuart Turton, and I’m about to be unemployed. I was a music journalist for around two years but gave it all up to be a rock star! Well, actually, I was poor and needed a real job. Now I work for the government and have no soul. Good times.
KR: What do you like to do when not writing?
I like to sketch and paint. I’m currently working on a large canvas and tend to work on it when I’m not in the mood to write. I’m also a parent to a six-year-old with autism, so I’m either watching the same episode of ‘The Amazing World of Gumball’ on repeat or laying on my bed staring up into the abyss. Joking. But not really.
KR: What is your favourite childhood book?
‘Where The Wild Things Are’ by Maurice Sendak. I have my own copy. Get your dirty paws off it, kid!
KR: What is your favourite album, and does music play any role in your writing?
‘The Queen Is Dead’ by The Smiths. Gosh, I love The Smiths. I’ve seen Johnny Marr and Morrissey Live. Johnny Marr personally gave me his guitar pick. The moment our fingers touched our souls collided. I think I saw Jesus that day. I LOVE music. I listen to everything. Lana Del Rey, Ozzy Osbourne, MGMT, Bjork, Orgy, Lady Gaga, The Cure, Neil Young, The Whitlam’s, Nina Hagen…. hontesly, anything and everything. A lot of my characters have some kind of connection with music or are musicians themselves. Music creates a calm atmosphere where I can block out the world and just write.
KR: Do you have a favourite horror movie/director?
The weird thing is that while I write graphic horror, I prefer to watch thrillers. I love ‘Darling’ (2016), ‘Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein’ (1994), and ‘Snowtown’ (2011). I like slow, creeping burns, movies that make you uncomfortable, and movies that make you question yourself as a person. So….no, I don’t have a favourite horror movie or director. I watch whatever interests me.
KR: What are you reading now?
‘The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle’ by Stuart Turton. I’m about half way through and still not sure what’s going on! It’s so unlike anything I’ve ever read.
KR: What was the last great book you read?
‘Good Omens’ by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. Had me giggling as I read on the way to work. A book hasn’t made me laugh out loud in a long time. I loved it! I usually don’t like Pratchett’s writing, but I’m a massive fan of Gaiman – together they wrote an epic book. So good!
KR: E-Book, Paperback or Hardback?
Paperback! I don’t like eBooks, and while hardbacks are lovely, paperbacks are lighter to carry around.
KR: Who were the authors that inspired you to write?
I read a lot of Isobelle Carmody, Catherine Fisher, and John Marsden as a teenager. I used to write fantasy/adventure stories, although after a while they started growing darker. Catherine Fisher inspires me when writing locations. Her prose is poetic (being a poet herself), elegant, and dark, and transports you to other worlds. Isobelle Carmody conjures up amazing worlds and characters, and merges aspects of fantasy and reality together in such a seamless way it’s hard not to be inspired.
KR: Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer to just see where an idea takes you?
It depends. I tend to just write, but as I write I come up with ideas, so I make dot points as I go along and figure out where I’m going from there. I tend to come up with random snatches of sentences or pieces of dialogue, so I write that down quickly before I forget it. A lot of my stories have heaps of notes attached to them, kind of like sticky notes, but in Word.
KR: What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
Depends what the story is. I like to research anatomy, so I might spend a few hours reading about how to dismember bodies, or what organs taste like. Since a lot of my stories are quite visceral, I must make sure I know exactly how particular things feel – how it feels to have a limb dismembered, to have your fingers pulled off one by one, to have your flesh torn from your body. Fun stuff like that. I also watch a lot of videos, mainly of surgeries, although I’ve watched a few decapitation videos on the dark web. I like to get descriptions right, and I don’t care what I need to do to ensure I write it all correctly. I like my writing to be factual and accurate, especially when it comes to anatomy. So, it really depends! Sometimes I get side-tracked watching videos. But I tend to research as I go along. For ‘Therianthropy’ I do a lot of research on birds, specifically Eagles, as I need to make sure I describe them accurately. I also research trees, as my story is primarily set in a forest.
KR: How would you describe your writing style?
I’m a visceral writer, and like focusing on descriptions. I like to immerse the reader within the story and focus on the details of their surroundings – what colours the curtains are, how the carpet feels under their feet, what they can smell in the kitchen. I like ornate and elaborate writing, but not too purple so it’s unreadable. I write a lot of graphic scenes and like to go into detail about what things like and feel like. I’m a show and tell kind of writer.
KR: Describe your usual writing day?
I don’t really have a typical writing day. I go through bouts of writers’ block where I can’t write anything at all. I don’t sit down to write at a particular time. Let’s just say my typical writing day could be any day where I just happen to write. I paint a lot, and while sitting out the back working on my canvas and listening to music I might come up with ideas for stories and jot them down and get to the laptop later, but it depends on my mood. Sometimes it doesn’t matter if I have ideas; if I can’t write, I can’t write.
KR: Do you have a favourite story/short that you’ve written (published or not)?
I like ‘The Eagle,’ published in Disturbed Digest June 2018, as it formed the basis of the novella I’m currently writing. It’s a blend of horror and dark fantasy, which is where the influence of Catherine Fisher on my writing comes into play. If only I can finish the novella….
KR: Do you read your book reviews?
I’ve only had reviews of short stories, since my collection is yet to be published. I don’t read reviews unless someone else mentions them (if I’m in an anthology). To be honest, I’m terrified to read them in case they’re shit.
KR: How do you think you’ve developed as an author?
Over the past few years I’ve found my voice, my niche, and what I feel comfortable with. I’ve been called ‘Australia’s body horror specialist’ and ‘Australia’s queen of body horror,’ which I think sums up my writing. When I started writing, I wasn’t overly familiar with the term, and just wrote whatever I came up with. Now, I know what I like to write about, I know what I’m interested in, and I know what I like to research.
KR: What is the best piece of advice you’ve received regarding your writing?
Hmmm. You know, when I was younger, probably around 19 or 20, a family member told me I wasn’t a very good writer and probably wouldn’t get anywhere. His advice to me was to find something more practical to do. He never believed in my writing skills and scoffed when I said I want to try writing something like Clive Barker. Well, screw you. I wish I could staple my IFWG contract and my Shadows Award to his face. What? I’m not petty, you’re petty! I suppose the advice was great because it showed me that it doesn’t matter if things get in your way – you just have to keep going, and that’s what I did.
KR: What scares you?
Parenthood and enclosed spaces. I’ve also never done my taxes. Pretty sure the goblins will come for me.
KR: Can you tell me about your latest release please?
My latest short story is ‘Metamorphosis,’ published in Midnight Echo 13. The story is set in the not too-distant future where puberty is monitored as a form of population control. When I was a teenager, I read the book series ‘The Shadow Children’ by Margaret Peterson Haddix. The idea of hiding people away, of pretending people don’t exist, always interested me. One day, out of the blue, I was on a bus and started thinking about the book series. But this time I started thinking not just about population control, but body control – the control of how a body develops, how it grows, how a child becomes an adult. So, I just started writing, and ‘Metamorphosis’ is what I came up with. I liked the idea that puberty was more than just the usual changes that occur in the body, that it was something out of your control, literally – that if you didn’t go through puberty you became something else, something monstrous, something to be hidden away and examined.
KR: What are you working on now?
I’ve been commissioned to write a story for inclusion in ‘War of the Worlds: Battleground Australia’ with ClanDestine Press. My story is from the perspective of the narrator’s younger brother and occurs during the aftermath of the assimilation. I’ve got about 2,500 of a planned 3,000 words, but I’m kind of stuck at the moment. So annoying!
KR: You find yourself on a desert island, which three people would you wish to be deserted with you and why?
You can choose…
a) One fictional character from your writing.
Now I’m wishing one of my characters was an expert survivalist…. I’d choose Drucilla, antagonist from ‘The Eagle’ and my novella ‘Therianthropy’. She’s a witch and can turn into animals. I’d get her to turn into a Harpy Eagle, as they’re the largest and most powerful raptors in the rainforest. I’d get her to hunt for me and fly off to fetch help. Or she might actually be powerful enough to lift me entirely and carry me off to safety.
b) One fictional character from any other book.
Brian Robeson from ‘Hatchet’ by Gary Paulson. The thirteen-year-old boy survives a plane crash and manages to endure the hardships of the wilderness for 54 days with only his hatchet and his instinctual survival skills. We’d be set.
c) One real-life person that is not a family member or friend.
Bear Grylls. He seems like a bit of a weirdo, but the guy is a professional adventurer. We’d be off the island in a heartbeat. And if not, by the time someone rescued us we’d have started our own civilisation if ya know what I mean. Bom chicka wow wow!
KR: Thank you very much Claire.
You can find out more about Claire by visiting her official website www.clairefitzpatrick.net
Please follow Claire on Twitter @CJFitzpatrick91
Kendall Reviews can EXCLUSIVELY reveal the table of contents (In No Particular Order)
The Jacaranda House
The Town Hall
Happy Birthday, Ebony
The Perfect Son
Deep Sea Fishing
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