By Alan Kelly.
1) You played the Female Cenobite in the cult classic Hellbound: Hellraiser 2. That film is over 20 years old now, but continues to be a major influence on modern horror film-makers. Also, it is very female-centric with the sadistic Julia (it was originally planned that she would become the Queen of Hell) the clever, resourceful final girl Kirsty and of course the Female Cenobite , who was Pinhead’s lieutenant. Could you tell me a bit about your experiences of working on the film?
Working on the film was an interesting process. Although I’d done mask work before (as a Mud Man in Nina Hagen’s ‘African Reggae’ pop video and as a robotic tango dancer in Godley & Creme’s ‘What’s Going On’ Wrangler Jeans advert), I’d never experienced the prosthetic make-up process before. The preparation involved was pretty awesome: the make-up crew had to make a cast of my head, from which the prosthetic pieces were created, then test make-up and costume sessions followed.
The first day of filming was pretty harrowing, as my flight from the States had been delayed by 24 hours, so I had to take a taxi straight from Heathrow to Pinewood Studios. Then I had to go through four hours of make-up and a half an hour to be laced into the costume, then had another six hours wait to get in front of the cameras. By that time, I really felt like hell. (And no pun intended.)
The best part of the movie for me was meeting the people involved: the make-up and costume folks, my fellow Cenobites, and of course, Ashley, Ken and Clare. Even though the filming was a bit grueling, everyone was really professional and cheerful, considering the uncomfortable working environment. It was also great meeting Clive [Barker] and Peter Atkins after the film was completed. Of course, I almost didn’t go the audition in the first place, because I found the first Hellraiser film so disturbing.
2) You wrote about a female cenobite for Paul Kane and Marie O’Regan’s excellent Hellbound Hearts and I felt that was one of the strongest stories in the anthology. Was this your first foray into horror writing?
Yes, it was. I really didn’t think I could write horror, as I’ve always been more interested in writing about crime, but I decided to have a go. I re-read Clive Barker’s novella, The Hellbound Heart, which is such an intelligent and intriguing book. It was interesting to note that the lead Cenobite in the novella was female. That was the starting point for my story, ‘Sister Cilice’, which just popped into my head one night as I tried to go to sleep.
3) The Venus Complex is your debut novel and there have been comparisons made to Bret Easton Ellis’ American Psycho. Your short story ‘Sister Cilice’ is pretty smart and very aggressive writing. Do you think a double-standard exists in the field of horror writing?
I’d really like to think that gender doesn’t make a difference to how a work is received, but in reality, I think that people may be shocked when women writers want to explore violent or erotic themes. It doesn’t fit with the stereotypical nurturing image that women are saddled with.
4) I remember the furore that Poppy Z Brite’s Exquisite Corpse created, though American Psycho was a best-seller. Do you think readers are more likely to embrace violent, erotic fiction more quickly than they would if it was written by a woman?
I’d like to think that every book is judged by its merits and the fact that it was written by a male or a female is inconsequential. Although I’ve had a little trouble publishing The Venus Complex, which is in the “transgressional fiction” genre, I still hope it will eventually be judged on its content, not the sex of its author. I just need to meet the right people who will recognize the potential of my book and what I wanted to achieve by writing it.
However, I do think that there is always a shock value to women writing horror, or violent crime, or erotica, etc. Women aren’t expected to be “mad, bad or dangerous to know”. We’re expected to be cuddly mother goddesses, so when we decide to go the way of Kali, the Goddess of Destruction, then a lot of preconceptions get screwed up.
5) You’re in the process of writing another novel. Could you tell me a bit about that and will it push the envelope as much as your previous work?
I’ve always been interested in the sexual motivations of my characters, which is why I think The Venus Complex breaks through a lot of boundaries in the genre of serial killer novels. In my next book, I want to do the same with the vampire genre – exploring a more visceral, sexual aspect of vampirism. Also, where The Venus Complex is a fictionalized journal and you’re stuck in the lead character’s head the whole journey, with no escape, in my new novel, I take a multi-character, multi-time period approach. I can’t really expand any more on this, but I give my individual voice to the story, which is all a writer can really do.