Carmilla Voiez is a proudly bisexual and mildly autistic introvert who finds writing much easier than verbal communication. A life long Goth, living with two kids, two cats and a poet by the sea.
She is passionate about horror, the alt scene, intersectional feminism, art, nature, and animals. When not writing, she gets paid to hang out in a stately home and entertain tourists.
Carmilla grew up on a varied diet of horror. Her earliest influences as a teenage reader were Graham Masterton, Brian Lumley and Clive Barker mixed with the romance of Hammer Horror and the visceral violence of the first wave of video nasties. Fascinated by the Goth aesthetic and enchanted by threnodies of eighties Goth and post-punk music she evolved into the creature of darkness we find today.
Her books are both extraordinarily personal and universally challenging. As Jef Withonef of Houston Press once said – “You do not read her books, you survive them.”
Carmilla’s bibliography includes Starblood (Vamptasy Publishing, Dec 2018), Starblood the graphic novel, Psychonaut the graphic novel, The Ballerina and the Revolutionary, Broken Mirror and Other Morbid Tales. Her work has been included in Zombie Punks Fuck Off (Clash Books), Slice Girls (Stitched Smile), and Another Beautiful Nightmare (Vamptasy).
Her website and blog can be found at www.carmillavoiez.com.
Carmilla, thank you for agreeing to this interview. You have recently re-released your debut novel from 2011, Starblood, a story that blends gothic horror with contemporary women’s fiction. What literary pilgrimage have you embarked on during the last seven or eight years that has led to publishing a new edition of this book?
Quite a circular route if truth be told, but it resulted in the Starblood trilogy becoming the Starblood series with a fourth book, Ribbons. Over those eight years, I have honed my writing and editing skills and I believe I have perfected the original stories into a significantly more artistic and enjoyable form. I have achieved a great enough distance from the stories to rethink and rewrite them with a critical eye. Working on the graphic novels has forced me to consider the nature of the narrative and the most important themes, which in turn allowed me to tighten the stories.
On the other hand horror and particularly horror by women and LGBTQ horror has gained popular appeal, so it seems timely to re-release them now.
You have been open about the underrepresentation of bisexuality in fiction. How have you attempted to remedy this in Starblood? I am curious whether your main character has already established her sexuality, or whether the story serves as a journey into understanding the self and the many facets of romance?
Of course, one series of stories cannot remedy an oversight in popular culture, but three of the central characters in the Starblood series identify as bisexual and have same-sex and opposite-sex lovers.
Star, my main female protagonist, discovers her bisexuality when she encounters Lilith. However Satori’s (my main male protagonist) bisexuality is already well established before the story starts. I haven’t only looked at bisexuality in this series of books but also polyamory and the sexual jealousy which can arise between partners with varying forms of sexuality. The characters in the books are young and beautiful, and it is a time of experimentation for them all. While “finding” themselves they make mistakes, sometimes painful, occasionally deadly. The journey, however, is all important. Star’s journey spans the series, while others have a stronger sense of self from the start.
Admittedly, I am fascinated that you have also published a graphic novel of Starblood with your illustrator, Anna Prashkovich. You completed an interview with comiccrusaders.com in October 2018, answering a question regarding the attraction between sex and magic, or sex and horror. In your answer, you spoke of sex being a taboo subject, how horror punishes sex with death, and you proposed a question that I would love to return to you. Do you think civilization fears the primitive? Do you think sex is our most commonly shared primitive drive? Is that the appeal of mixing sex and horror in literature and film?
Your question fits in very well with a non-fiction book I recently read, “Caliban and the Witch”. It suggests that neither magic nor sex were taboo before the Middle-Ages. A rise in Mercantilism, which became early Capitalism, and a population crisis after the great plague caused the ruling class to fear a serious labour shortage. By proscribing non-reproductive sex (including homosexuality and contraceptive use) and sex outside marriage, the ruling classes with the help of state and church, were able to ensure that future generations of labour were produced and cared for. At the same time land clearances and the privatisation of commonly held grazing land caused mass starvation. Civil unrest was often led by women, trying to feed their families. Coupled with the rise, during the same period, of professional medicine, meant that natural remedies and wise women became very unwelcome. Magic by working class women was considered witchcraft and punishable by death. Higher magic practiced by upper class men was reclassified as a science. Important aspects of working class life were outlawed and crushed – sex, magic and even working for oneself without a master. Marriage, family and professional male doctors became the norm.
So, in answer to your question yes I believe sex is one of our most primitive drives. Aspects of the uncivilised and animal part of ourselves. Aspects the church and state want to control. Magic is about creating something without hard work, or healing someone without university degrees. Knowledge passed down from our ancestors, tapping into something that is both uncivilised and primal.
Nature is seen as something to be controlled and exploited for profit under our current economic regime. This is at odds with our uncivilised selves who still gasp in awe at a supermoon, use nettles to cure hayfever, and are happiest when not at work being paid pittance so someone can profit from our labour.
I know which route to being human I prefer, and it is certainly the less destructive course.
Changing gears a bit, you have been published in a number of anthologies: Another Beautiful Nightmare, Zombie Punks Fuck Off, and Slice Girls. Do you have a favorite among your collection? What is it about?
I love writing short stories. I find myself at my most experimental when I don’t need to worry about a complicated plot line and dramatic character arcs. My story for Slice Girls is a painful one that was colored by traumatic events in my life. Eat the Rich for Zombie Punks was great fun and played with the idea that fear of zombies originated in fear of the “unwashed” masses. I like that story a lot. But my favorite is Demons Are a Girl’s Best Friend from Another Beautiful Nightmare. It deals with loss and loneliness but I also think it’s funny in a tongue-in-cheek sort of way. It looks at what might happen if the voices in your head actually help you live a better life.
You have also written your own collection of dark tales, Broken Mirror and Other Morbid Tales. One reader commented that your stories take one “down a dark passageway of the human psyche”. Why do you think you are drawn to the darker side of the human experience? Why is it important for people to explore those shadowed corridors?
I have suffered from depression since I was a teenager. Like Thomas Ligotti I am personally sceptical that being alive is all right, or at least better than the alternative. I feel more like the farm boy from “The Princess Bride” – ‘Life is Pain’. That might sound very unappealing to someone who is perfectly content with their life, but for those like me who struggle to keep going there is both validation and coping techniques to be found in the horror genre. We face our demons in literature and are strengthened by the experience.
What can we expect from you in 2019? Will you be publishing any more stories?
I am editing Ribbons, the fourth novel in the Starblood series, which should be released in September 2019, barring any delays. Anna is creating artwork for Black Sun the graphic novel and I’m currently writing the first draft of a dark urban fantasy with the working title “The Secret Lives of Melissa Powell” set in a women’s prison.
It has been a pleasure, Carmilla! Please tell us where fans can find you online or in the upcoming year at events.
My website is a good resource for all my work and musings and can be found at www.carmillavoiez.com
On social media –