My final installment in the Women in Horror Spotlight series is a writer whose work is featured in the upcoming State of Horror: Louisianna anthology from Charon Coin Press. Teresa Bergen will be sharing with us some of her influences, difficulties and triumphs on her writing journey. Stay tuned for tomorrow: I’ll be giving an update about this week’s appearances at MystiCon. I know, it’s that time of year once more!!!
What influences your stories?
I generally like stories with lots of basis in my personal reality, and horror that somehow involves my own fears. And I like humor mixed in. At least something that is funny to me. For example, in my story “Binky,” I draw on the idea of not knowing how to raise someone else’s child – a situation I was partially engaged in when I wrote it — and also my experience being initiated into transcendental meditation at an early age and being warned to never tell my mantra to anybody. Do I believe that sharing my mantra will really result in disaster? No. But have I ever told anybody? No way! This is something I find funny about myself, that I simultaneously hold these two beliefs, and something I found entertaining about my character Gloria.
I’m currently working on a trilogy of novels about a girl whose mother forces her to go on a yoga retreat in India. While there, the girl gets bitten by a snake and develops latent cobra powers. Since I’m a yoga teacher as well as a writer it gave me a chance to draw out many of the funny and weird things about American yoga practitioners through the eyes of my reluctant young yogi protagonist.
How do you balance writing and the realities of life?
Time is the biggest problem. I do lots of freelance writing, editing and transcription, and there are only so many hours in a day. And only so many hours I can sit and look at a computer screen. Unfortunately, writing online slideshows and ghostwriting company blogs pays a lot better than fiction. So fiction only gets a little piece of the writing day.
There’s also the problem of doing a bunch of different things to support my fiction writing habit. I always thought I’d be a semi-financially successful fiction writer by this point in my life. (What gave me that conviction? I don’t know). Instead, I amassed a variety of ways to make money. Which, when I list them all off, makes me sound like a dilettante or a lunatic. So when people ask me what I do for a living, I generally just tell them the most relevant thing.
Also, cleaning gets short shrift. Dust bunnies crouch in corners of my house. Moss grows on my car. And the yard has devolved into survival of the fittest.
Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing or what was the hardest part about writing your story?
One of the harder things for me about writing horror is making it convincing and believable enough without spelling out every detail. Unlike sci fi, horror doesn’t always give you the whole explanation of why weird things are happening in the story. Then again, I want some sort of remotely plausible foundation to anchor my characters and their macabre crises. As a reader, I hate to be completely lost and unsure what the writer was trying to say.
The ending of “Binky” was hard for me because I wanted it to be clear without pounding the reader over the head. Nor did I want the end to be predictable. Also, there’s the why of the story, which is like the why of raising children. Why was the stepdaughter so awful to Gloria? Was it deliberate? Was she just a bad seed? Would she have outgrown the phase and come to like/tolerate/love Gloria if things had ended differently? Some things can’t be known or explained.