Helen Marshall is an award-winning Canadian author, editor, and doctor of medieval studies. Her poetry and fiction have been published in The Chiaroscuro, Abyss & Apex, Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, and have been reprinted in several Year's Best anthologies. Her debut collection of short stories “ (ChiZine Publications, 2012) was named one of the top ten books of 2012 by January Magazine. It won the 2013 British Fantasy Award for Best Newcomer and was short-listed for the 2013 Aurora Award by the Canadian Society of Science Fiction and Fantasy. She also published two volumes of poetry, “Skeleton Leaves” (Kelp Queen Press, 2011), winner of the Aurora Award in 2012 and nominated for the Rhysling Award, and “The Sex Lives of Monsters” (Kelp Queen Press, 2013), nominated for the Bram Stoker Award this year. Helen Marshall’s second collection of short stories, “Gifts for the One Who Comes After”, will be released on fall of this year by ChiZine Publications.
Mihai A: Thank you very much for the opportunity of this interview.
I’ll start by quoting from one of your interviews, “
HM: My experience as an editor at ChiZine Publications gave me the opportunity to collaborate with Sandra Kasturi on a number of big projects, and what I discovered was a true kindred spirit, someone warm and wise and witty, whom I continually wanted to impress. I’m very excited about collaborating with her on Imaginarium 2014 in part because—despite what I said about not wanting to “read the field”—I have a very deep love for the Canadian genre scene. There are some tremendous authors out there whom I’ve had a chance to work with at ChiZine Publications, and many others whom I’ve met at conventions and the like. Something special is happening in Canada, a kind of genre renaissance, and though there is a fear that any time you come to recognize a crest, you fear that it may already be over, nevertheless, I know that many Canadian authors are just beginning to gain traction. It is hard to say exactly what Sandra and I are looking for in Imaginarium: I certainly expect to come across a wider variety of genre angles than I typically write myself, but I would say that I am looking for the same things I try to put into my own work—moments of surprise, delight, and transcendence. And good spelling.
MA: Not only that all your published books were illustrated by Chris Roberts, but also your forthcoming new collection of short stories, “Gifts for the One Who Comes After”, benefits from his works. How did the collaboration with Chris Roberts start? Would you like to repeat in the future the experience of illustrating your books with a different artist?
HM: I met Chris Roberts at the World Horror Convention in Austin, and he kindly offered to do the cover and interior art for my first chapbook, Skeleton Leaves. I have always been impressed by his attention to detail, and his ability to pick out moments of emotional nuance and recast those moments in graphic form. I’ve just last week seen the interior pieces he has put together for Gifts for the One Who Comes After, and they are stunning. Absolutely stunning. I would go out on a limb and say that it is some of his best work to date.
As a book historian, I love the form of the book itself, and the artistic possibilities of that form. What first drew me to ChiZine Publications’ books was that Brett Savory and Sandra Kasturi were willing to put time and effort into their design, frequently incorporating artwork or interesting layouts. That impressed me, and I think it impressed everyone.
I suppose, of course, I’d be like to repeat the experience of having my books illustrated by different artists—and I’ve seen some lovely artwork for individual short stories like Chris Buzelli’s magnificent cover piece for my story “The Hanging Game” on Tor.com—but Chris Roberts gets me. I get him. It makes for a great working relationship.
MA: Since I mentioned “Gifts for the One Who Comes After” can you give us a few details about your new short stories collection? What should your old and new readers expect from “Gifts for the One Who Comes After”?
HM: Gifts for the One Who Comes After will feature eighteen short stories—only six of them, at this stage, previously published. As I mentioned before, whereas Hair Side, Flesh Side was very interested in history and the cost of creating art, the new collection explores the theme of legacy as a monstrous or brutal weight. It has some of my favourite stories in it including “Lessons in the Raising of Household Objects”, which was shortlisted for the Gloria Vanderbilt Short Fiction prize; “Ship House”, which is something like Rumplestitskin meets The Haunting of Hill House; “The Slipway Grey”, which was on the preliminary ballot for the Bram Stoker award, about a grandfather who contemplates his own death in the form of a massive bull shark haunting the Selebi mines in Zimbabwe; and “The Gallery of the Eliminated”, about a boy who goes to a special zoo where he watches a circus performer give birth to an extinct giant sloth. (The research for that last story involved some rather graphic YouTube videos!) Those are just a couple of the stories—but they are wild, I promise you!
MA: Besides “Gifts for the One Who Comes After” and “Imaginarium 2014” what other future projects do you have? At what are you working at the moment?
HM: Both of those projects are slated for publication in 2014, and so, I’m just in the final stages of submitting those manuscripts. Apart from that, I’m working away on my young adult novel Icarus Kids, which I expect to finish in the next couple of months, while also juggling a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Oxford where I’m turning my recently defended dissertation into a monograph. There’s lots to keep me busy!
Thank you very much for your time and answers.