But Chantal's "go to" genre will always be horror. "It helps being scared of everything. That gives me plenty of inspiration," she says.
Chantal is one of Smart Rhino's favorite writers, and we always enjoy talking with her. She gladly provided the following interview--which captures much of her inherent wackiness. Enjoy!
Your Coyote novels, Coyote the Outlander and Coyote: The Clockwork Dragonfly, are uniquely steampunk. Coyote is a strong and fascinating heroine. How much of Coyote is Chantal?
Ha! You caught me there. There’s quite a lot of me in Coyote, more so than any other character I’ve written so far. I think that also has a lot to do with that she’s an old role-play character of mine, from back in the days that we played Dead Lands.
There are a great deal of differences, of course. I can’t shoot a gun to save my life (in all honesty, I would more likely shoot myself than an opponent) and even if I could, I don’t think I’d have it in me to kill anyone. In a fight of flight situation … well, let’s just say I do the worst … I freeze. *cringes*
So, not so much the heroic bounty hunter, more the useless cannon fodder. If the *insert scary monster here* Apocalypse should ever happen, I would be among the first to die—and I probably won’t even die with dignity.
But at least I get to live vicariously through Coyote, right? Right? *bites lip*
Where I think we’re similar, she and I, is that Coyote has my zany outlook on life, and my sense of humor. One could argue that all characters I write have "my sense of humor" since, ehm … I wrote them, but that’s not exactly true. There is a difference between what I write and how I am in real life—there are plenty of characters I’ve written where I thought: "Dude, wtf is wrong with you?" Not sure what that says about my own mental state, but there you have it.
Coyote reflects how I feel about subjects such as inequality. She also mirrors some of the awkwardness I felt as a young girl/woman for being a tomboy. When I write Coyote, I base her very much on the parts of my personality that are confident, yet at the same time I give her some of my own insecurities, too. I would say she is the braver version of me—one who doesn’t care what anyone thinks.
Your novel Angel Manor is straight up horror. Do you think your writing will lean more toward that genre in your future work?
Okay, that was the short answer *grins*, now here’s the long one. Angel Manor for me was a reaction to a conversation I had several years ago during the Women of Horror month. A person—I honestly don’t remember who the person was—suggested that women couldn’t write "real horror" (whatever that is supposed to be) and we only wrote paranormal romance.
Now, you need to know this about me … of all the genres, romance is the one I’m least comfortable with. So, though my more “morbid” fiction can range from straight forward horror to dark fantasy, it has never been paranormal romance. The person then said that women never went "all the way" (ooh la la) and could not be truly scary. I think Angel Manor was my "I’ll show you" book. Of course it means more to me than just that, because I really do have a story to tell with the Lucifer Falls series … but that’s where the idea was born.
When I write horror, I tend to be rather graphic in my descriptions. I have always been quite explicit, even before I wrote Angel Manor, but most of my stories are less extreme. Even the sequel is a little less gruesome (though just a little) and a lot more story-orientated.
I love horror, but it’s also a genre where I feel most conflicted when writing. My husband always cringes when I tell him I’m going to write something dark. It affects my moods. For me to write a story, I need to relate to my characters and their situation. That isn’t always the greatest feeling when you’re writing about death, misery, and monsters. Especially since I tend to tackle topics that I genuinely care about. There are moments where I “ugly cry” behind my computer as I write.
So that’s why I don’t want to lean more toward horror than I do to other genres. I need to take breaks from it now and then.
Having said that, most of my work does have elements of darkness. I guess that’s just who I am as a writer. I always described the Coyote series as my "light and fluffy" books, until someone told me that they, too, have some dark moments.
I was actually surprised by this, but have accepted that I may just be a little twisted … or even … Deeply Twisted. *Badum Tish* (I acknowledge that was a terrible “promote my own book” pun, and I am deeply ashamed #sorrynotsorry)
Many of the readers of the Smart Rhino anthology Someone Wicked enjoyed your story "Mirror Mirror." And the stories in your book A Deeply Twisted Collection are also fun and creepy. What do you find most appealing about writing short stories?
For a while I was really "into" writing short stories. T’was ‘mah thang. (I apologize for that too.) I’ve always enjoyed fairy tales, I guess I compare shorts a bit to them.
What I deeply love about short stories is that you can tell so much in such a little space. It’s like taking your readers on little joy rides.
“Get in the car! No … leave your shoes. You won’t need them where we’re going.”
Eh … I mean … right … eh … back to the topic.
I’m one of those writers that constantly has new ideas. Creativity that borders on insanity, you might say. What’s really gratifying about short stories is that you can easily spin those ideas into tales, without having to fit them into a "bigger picture." I would be writing one story, and something in my own work would trigger the idea for the next one. It can be a lot of fun.
The weird thing is, it feels like I can either write short stories or long ones (like novels or novelettes). Once I’m in novel-writing mode, I struggle writing short pieces, because it takes me a while to switch back to making stories concise. That’s why I often turn down people who ask me to write them a short story when I’m in the middle of writing a novel. The only times I tend to accept this is when the opportunity is just too good for my career to pass up.
Do you think living in the Netherlands has helped distinguish your perspective when approaching fiction? How has that background impacted your writing?
I think so. I’ve lived in the UK for three years, and I can tell you it’s very different from the Dutch culture—while at the same time having a lot of similarities.
We’re a little more "blunt" than my UK and US readers. It means I have a very different social outlook on things, and that probably also comes across in my writing.
There are things that I don’t even think about on a daily basis that can be really shocking to other people. Cultural dissimilarities can be funny like that. A great—and relatively safe—example is swearing. I try to tone my “potty mouth” (as some people endearingly call it) down (up to a certain degree) to not only reach a wider audience, but also not distract from my stories. Swearing is not a big deal in the Netherlands. We even have levels of swearing ranging from “the usual” to “wishing horrible diseases on people.” The latter I’ve always had a problem with myself (and I think many Dutch people agree) but it makes it more understandable why the F word doesn’t really phase me.
I still come from a Western country, though, which means I share a lot of the perspectives of my US and UK audience. The culture clashes we have are just minor, and it’s easy to relate to my readers. We deal with similar issues.
As for writing, even though I have used Dutch mythology before in stories like “The Widow” and “Deeply Twisted,” I rarely use my heritage in my work. The characters and settings I write do tend to have different nationalities, and I love learning about new cultures. Perhaps one day I’ll write a book with a Dutch heroine. Saying that … the main characters from Angel Manor lived in the Netherlands for a good deal of their lives, so maybe that counts too?
I definitely don’t have a “Dutch voice” when it comes to writing. Dutch fiction and literature definitely has a very strong tone, and I can’t relate to it AT ALL. With a few exceptions of books that I loved from writers such as Thea Beckman and Evert Hartman, I actually find myself disliking most Dutch fiction. It’s just NOT my cup of tea. I hope I don’t offend anyone by saying that—unlike Coyote, I do actually care—but it’s as the old saying says: “Different strokes for different folks.”
So, in the writing regard, I’m not very Dutch. I don’t really have a lot of Dutch readers either. The most you can accuse me of is having a Dutch outlook on life.
Thanks, Chantal. Keep up the great work!
For more information about Chantal, visit her website.