Genre Chick Interview: Sarah Pinborough

Sarah Pinborough, the British Grace Kelly of the horror genre, is riding high–having just won a British Fantasy Award for her short story “Do You See”–and in a few weeks she is up for the World Fantasy Award for her short “Our Man in the Sudan.” Anyone who follows her on Twitter knows that she’s a jet-setting wine connoisseur who’s not afraid of getting down and dirty and telling it like it is.

Sarah is completely adorable…and can scare the ever-living daylights out of you. I sent a “little birdy” Sarah’s way with a few fun questions about her life recently, and this is what came back.

Alethea Kontis: You just recently won a British Fantasy Award for “Do You See” —  your first award ever! What was it like?
Sarah Pinborough: It was absolutely brilliant. I didn’t expect to win, and after being short-listed for two previous years for best novel and hearing someone else’s name read out it was a complete surprise to hear mine. And the lovely thing about a British Fantasy Award is that you get to pick it up in a room full of friends. Perfect.

AK:  You’ve been nominated for a World Fantasy Award too…have you bought a new dress? Do you think all this award attention will put pressure on updating your wardrobe?
SP: Ha! No… although, now you mention it…;-) Normally I trawl eBay for my awards dresses because it’s so rare that girls have an opportunity to dress up these days and eBay make it cheap to get something glamorous, but this year I bought a new dress and it had a big price tag so I’ll be wearing the same one at WFC. I think. But, I may still buy another–the temptation is great!

AK: In Feeding Ground, spider-like creatures take over London. Are you arachnophobic? Anything-phobic?
SP: I don’t really have a fear of spiders unless I wake up and one’s crawling on me, or something. We don’t have any poisonous ones in England so it’s only the squeamish factor here. I quite like them and tend to leave them alone or put them outside. I do have lots of phobias though. I’m scared of heights, small places, and all the usual things. I’m a physical coward–if it can harm me, I’m afraid of it!

AK: Are these the same spider-like creatures from Breeding Ground?
SP: They are the same spiders, although I’ve made some of them nastier. The book is set in a sink-estate in London with a big drug problem. I found myself wondering how the spiders would be if they’d developed inside the bodies of crack junkies. As it turns out they came out very unpleasant indeed. This one is more of a proper creature feature fun book than Breeding Ground was, which I considered more of a science fiction rather than a horror novel.

AK:  What are the differences between your UK and US fans?
SP: To be honest, most of my fans at the moment are based in the US because my Leisure novels aren’t sold in the UK. In March when my first thriller, A Matter of Blood comes out from Gollancz then hopefully I’ll have more English ones! One of the things I really like about American fans though is that they take time to email you if they’ve enjoyed something you’ve written–which is really nice to wake up to in your inbox.

AK:  Are people generally surprised to meet you after reading your thriller/horror fiction? What’s the most frequent reaction?
SP: Like most female horror writers I guess the thing I get most is, “You look like you should write romance” or “Did something bad happen to you in your childhood?” Normally the second one comes slightly tongue in cheek. I hope so, anyway. I don’t tend to take any notice. I don’t think of any style of writing as gender specific but some people still expect dark fiction to be written by men, not bottle-blonde women.

AK: Of all the places you’ve traveled, which gave you the best stories to tell?
SP: I wrote a story set in Cold War Moscow for Summer Chills and Our Man in the Sudan (the WFA-nominated story) is set in Khartoum–both places that I spent a lot of time in when I was growing up and that have changed a lot in the intervening years. For me, writing stories set in places that were once home is a great way to dig around and re-freshen the memories so I don’t forget them, and if you’ve spent years in a place then you have the smells and sounds at your fingertips in a way that’s great for writing. Unusual places are immediately evocative and other cultures are a great source of ideas for something out of the ordinary. When you place the reader somewhere they’re not familiar with, it’s easy to then take them somewhere that will make them nervous.

AK: I follow you on Twitter and you’re always hard at work–What’s next for you (writing-wise and otherwise)?
SP: The next two years are pretty much mapped out for me. I’ve just started the second book of The Dog-Faced Gods trilogy for Gollancz (A Matter of Blood is the first) and then I have to write the second in a YA fantasy trilogy for Gollancz (the first is The Double-Edged Sword out in July in the name of Sarah Silverwood). By the time I’ve finished the trilogies, who knows what will be happening. I’d quite like to keep writing some YA and some adult. Maybe a crime series. We’ll see. As long as I’m writing something dark, I’m happy.

AK: What are your thoughts on Twitter?
SP: Twitter is great fun but such a distraction! I have, however, made some interesting contacts and good friends on there, so I can’t knock it. Now that I’m back in the writing zone though, I have to be more strict with myself and just go on in the morning and the evening. It’s like Facebook on speed.

AK: What are your thoughts on people who drink massive amounts of wine while Twittering?
SP: I think that the outcome of Twitter and wine normally involves sweary comedy tweets!

AK:  Which authors go best with white wine? Red?
SP: White wine must be Sarah Langan and Alexandra Sokoloff, and red wine would be Graham Joyce. I almost said Brian Keene and Tim Lebbon, but they go best with real ale.

AK:  And my standard question for everyone: If you could be any superhero, who would you be and why?
SP: Cat Woman. Because she’s bad, beautiful, and has a body that even looks good in skintight PVC.