To celebrate the release of Quoth the Raven, edited by Lyn Worthen and published by Camden Park Press, I’m getting cozy with my fellow anthology contributors to learn more about their stories and what inspires their dark little writers’ hearts.
For my final interview, I’m chatting with Victoria Weisfeld, author of “Tooth and Nail” in Quoth the Raven.
Quoth the Raven celebrates the eerie and influential legacy of Edgar Allan Poe. What is it about Edgar Allan Poe’s work that speaks to you (perhaps from the grave)?
As a crime writer, I appreciate how he built up characters who could get under your skin. Growing up reading Poe and Dickens, those long loopy sentences still carry me right into the story, though that writing style is definitely out-of-date today. It’s fun going back to it.
Pick three adjectives to describe the story you wrote for Quoth the Raven.
Obsession, compulsion, and (this is a long one) seeing the world through a cracked lens.
Imagine you’re in an old-timey elevator, a rickety one that boasts a well-worn, rusty cage. There’s a man in all black in the elevator with you, and he asks what your story is about. What do you tell him?
“Well, Mr. Poe, it’s about a woman who sees her twin brother as the other half of herself and will stop at nothing to keep him close.”
Okay, I’m continuing with this scenario thing. It’s 1849, and you’re at a gathering of literature lovers, a salon, if you will. Across the room, you spy Edgar Allan Poe, and you simply must go over to him to compliment his work. What is the story or poem of his that you laud to excess? And why?
After gushing shamelessly, and extolling “The Gold Bug” for igniting my interest in cryptography, and “The Purloined Letter” as an example of a police procedural, I’d settle on “The Narrative of A. Gordon Pym,” one of Poe’s longer works, as one of the best adventure stories of all time, especially for an 1849 reader as yet unacquainted with the National Geographic and television nature programs.
As a writer, what do you think are the most important elements of dark fiction?
Atmosphere comes to mind first and characters whose darkness (or by contrast, whose innocence) reveals the danger of their environment. Naturally, dark fiction employs sinister plots, but a plot that just piles on gore without establishing a sense of menace or without developing characters the reader cares about falls short. (A flaw in some modern crime fiction, as well.)
As a reader, why are you attracted to dark fiction? Why do you think we like to read about the things that terrify us?
This is not an original insight, but sometimes reading about—exposing oneself to—supremely terrifying things makes it easier to deal with the fearful events encountered in everyday life. Some experts suggest this accounts for the popularity among women of a certain kind of thriller. Reading about sexual violence helps readers contemplate not just the terror of such an event, but also its survivability. Maybe.
What’s a story or poem – by any author – that has truly creeped you out (in the best way possible, of course)? What was it about that particular story that just got to you?
The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris. It was the first psychological thriller I’d ever read, so I wasn’t prepared for how far he’d go. Julia Heaberlin’s Paper Ghosts is a 2018 example. A young woman, Grace, embarks on a road trip with a demented elderly man she thinks may have killed her sister a dozen years earlier. The cat-and-mouse game between them, as she tries to figure out how lucid is he, really, is nerve-wracking!
Who are some of your literary inspirations?
I am a Dickens fan, and my last trip to England was to be part of the celebrations of the 200th anniversary of his birth (favorite book: Our Mutual Friend). But since I’m a crime/mystery writer I have many sources of inspiration. I’d love to achieve the comic voice—even occasionally—of Joe Ide; the humanity of James Anderson; the literary power of Hannah Tinti, the suspense-creation of Gin Phillips. And many more!
What are you working on now?
Two novels are complete and appearing on publisher’s desks. One set in Rome, involving Eugenia Clarke, whom I’ve published several short stories about. Genie is a travel writer whose curiosity inevitably lands her in difficulty—deadly difficulty in this case. The other novel is about a New York architect whose mistress is murdered. On the surface, it’s about figuring out why she died and who killed her (and why they are plotting against him), but fundamentally it’s about a man trying to regain his self respect.
Where can we find more of your work or connect with you online?
I have an active website—vweisfeld.com—with a page on “My Writing.” You can link directly to many of my short stories there, including the Derringer award-winning “Breadcrumbs.” The website includes book, movie, and theater reviews; covers topics writers fret about; and offers some travel tips, possible fodder for Genie’s next adventures.
My short stories have appeared in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine; Betty Fedora, Big Muddy, and the recent anthologies Busted: Arresting Stories from the Beat, Murder Among Friends, and Bouchercon 2017’s Passport to Murder, as well as Quoth the Raven. I’m a reviewer for U.K. website crimefictionlover.com and Broadway-based theater review site TheFrontRowCenter.com.
About Quoth the Raven:
The works of Poe were dark and often disturbing. From dismembered corpses, rivals bricked behind cellar walls, murders in back alleys, laments for lost loves, obsessions that drive men – and women! – to madness, his stories have had a profound impact on both the horror and mystery genres to this day.
In Quoth the Raven, we invite you to answer the call of the raven and revisit Poe’s work, re-imagined for the twenty-first century. Here, the lover of mystery and goth horror will find familiar themes in contemporary settings, variations on Poe’s tales, and faithful recreations of the author’s signature style.
Purchase your copy of the anthology HERE.