Joel McKay Interviews… Caitlin Marceau!

December 02, 2022

Caitlin Marceau is a queer author and lecturer based in Montreal. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Creative Writing, is an Active Member of the Horror Writers Association, and has spoken about genre literature at several Canadian conventions. She spends most of her time writing horror and experimental fiction, but has also been published for poetry as well as creative non-fiction. Her work includes PalimpsestMagnum Opus, and her debut novella,This Is Where We Talk Things OutHer second collection, A Blackness Absolute, and her debut novel, It Wasn’t Supposed To Go Like This, are set for publication in 2023. For more, check out her website at www.CaitlinMarceau.ca  or find her on social media. 

Q: Your debut novella, This is Where We Talk Things Out, was released in September and follows the gut-wrenching, and, frankly, disturbing journey of Miller and her estranged mother, Sylvie. Author Laurel Hightower described it as “one of the most horrifying reads of the year.” Tell us how the exploration of a mother-daughter relationship worked as a solid root for a horror story.

A: I think there are a few reasons why this premise works so well in horror. The first is that, for most of us, we’re told that our parents are supposed to love us, keep us safe, and have our best interests at heart. So when they suddenly (or actively!) don’t, it’s naturally upsetting to us. It goes against one of the few things in life that we’re told to expect as true, which is always a great jumping-off point for a scary story.

I think another reason that it works so well is because it’s so possible. When you read about monsters, demons, or ghosts, there’s a level of disbelief that has to be suspended in order to let the terror of these stories really seep in. But family? Most of us know how quickly things can go from good to bad, so the idea of a mom snapping after the death of her husband isn’t as far-fetched or even as hard to relate to as, say, a vengeful spirit.

Q: Horror is experiencing a renaissance, but so is the novella. Why do you think we’re suddenly seeing so many horror novellas entering the publishing space? What is it about their structure that’s finally attracting the attention of writers, publishers and readers?

A: This is a great question and I wish I had a great answer for it! Unfortunately, I’m really not sure what’s driving the push for novellas in today’s climate. Part of me wants to believe it’s audiences having a deeper appreciation for the care and lean storytelling that goes into the medium (and this probably is the case!), but a more jaded side of me wonders if it’s people not having the attention span for novels, but still wanting more than a short story. Personally, writing This Is Where We Talk Things Out as a novella was purely accidental! I knew what story I wanted to tell when I started it, but I had no idea just how long (or short!) it was going to end up when I started writing it.

Q: This is Where We Talk Things Out is set in the remote Quebec wilderness in winter. How do you feel Canada and its geography lends itself well to horror stories? How do you think our voices add to or can influence the direction of horror literature?

A: Canada’s geography is perfect for horror! We’re like the second largest land mass in the world, but most of it is so treacherous that the majority of us live near the American border. And even with all of us grouped together that way, we’re so massively spread out across the continent that we’re still easily isolated from each other. Canada is the perfect country for horror stories and it always surprises me how under-utilized it is in the genre. I think that having more Canadian authors will not only help showcase just how nightmarish our country can be—and I really do mean that in a good way—but will also help highlight some under represented sub-genres (like isolationist and environmental horror).

Q: Laughlin Hills Community Magazine Issue 1 was also just published. You’ve described it as perhaps your favourite project yet. It seems to strike a balance between horror, comedy and the absurd. Tell us about it, and why do you think comedy and the absurd compliment horror so well?

A: I think it all comes down to that suspension of disbelief that I mentioned earlier. When you read horror, you have to be open to some absurd ideas right out of the gate. I mean, Dracula really doesn’t read as well if you refuse to buy into the idea of an immortal man sucking blood to stay alive, you know? It’s hard to watch Eight Legged Freaks if you won’t accept the premie behind it. But if you’re going to read something about giant spiders and have lowered your guard to accept the existence of a man-eating arachnid for the sake of the media you’re consuming, then there’s nothing to stop you from also accepting that his name is Claude and that he enjoys roller-derby on Thursdays too.

Q: What is one piece of advice you would give horror authors today?

A: Write the stories you’ve always wished you could read. It’s the advice that Tamora Pierce gave me when I met her as a kid and I swear by it to this day. When you write stories you’re passionate about as a reader, your job as a writer gets a lot easier! I think a lot of people worry about writing stories for the current market, but that changes all the time. So don’t focus on following trends, focus on starting your own. 

Q: What’s next for you?

A: So. Much. Stuff. My collection, Femina, is out from DarkLit Press on December 3rd so I’m really excited and really nervous for that release. Laughlin Hills Community Magazine Issue 2: Winter 2022 is also coming out this December from DarkLit Press and my illustrated chapbook,A Cold That Burns Like Fire, is out December 13th from Shortwave Publishing. So December is a wildly busy month for me! My third collection, A Blackness Absolute, then comes out in February from Ghost Orchid Press, and then there’s a slew of books coming out over the course of the year (some announced and some still tightly under wraps). So, you know, keeping pretty busy!

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