From Modern Mythcraft to Magical Surrealism

Carole Lanham, Author of Keepity Keep

Carole Lanham was born in St. Louis, Missouri, spent some of her best and most formative years in LA, then forgot how cold it gets in the Midwest and decided to move back. There is a pet rodent living in her house that is not hers but she gets to clean the cage. Outside of writing, her favorite thing in the world is traveling to parts unknown and exploring the Death Valley backcountry with her husband Chris. Their two children have been following them into the blackest depths of old mines and the ghostliest corners of old ghost towns since the day they could walk. Periodic doses of desert are mandatory for them all. This past year, Carole was blessed to win two writing contests and see ten of her stories in print, with two more to come in 2009. If interested, you can find her current work in Apex Digest, On the Premises, History Is Dead, Vulgata, The Willows, Midnight Lullabies, Parade of Phantoms, Tales of Moreauvia, The World Is Dead, and Bound in Skin. Additionally, Carole hopes you will check out her Horror Housewife website in January as she has a really nifty collection of aprons she’s dying to share as well as some handy tips for removing stubborn stains.

Tell me a little about Keepity Keep. What was the first image or phrase or impetus that made you sit down and spin it out?

With this story, I started with the name Petaloo. I was just minding my own business, trying to finish up editing on some other work, and she started circling around me. Then the Turnbull brothers poked their heads in and I had to forget everything else and start listening to the story they were trying to tell me.

Where do you get your ideas?

Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader holds infinite possibilities. Then, too, I once saw a perfectly decrepit headstone in New Orleans with the name BASTIAN REBEL chiseled on it and vowed to use the name in a story. Yeah, sometimes vodka is involved. The most inspiring source for me though is history and travel. After reading about mortuary hospitals in Victorian times and making a visit to the UK, I wrote a story about a mentally handicapped man who invents a toe bell contraption meant to ferret out the living among the dead. That’s what history does to me — it sets pale lifeless digits to wiggling inside my head. History is better than anything I can make up.

I immediately zeroed in on the mention of ghost towns in your bio — having been to a few, I’m fascinated by them. Do you have any good stories from your visits, with or without ghosts?

Most of the stories that come to mind involve strange folks we’ve encountered in the middle of nowhere. Because we prefer to get off the beaten trail, it’s surprising enough to run into another four wheel drive bumping along in a similar direction, much less stray people. A man who looked like Charlie Manson once walked straight out of the ether and into our camp to mumble something completely incoherant, then disappear again. Because we were not far from Barker Ranch, where they arrested a large number of the family back in the day, his sudden appearance was even more spooky. Maybe it was a lost hippie still wandering the hills looking for his leader? I still wonder what he was trying to say. Another time, we passed a man standing outside his van in the blistering heat on a plain of endless scrub. He had an easel set up and he was painting, buck naked. Another naked fellow walked by us once and tipped his cowboy hat. He was wearing boots and a bandana around his neck and nothing else and I’ve never been able to cleanse my mind of the image.

What author do you admire and hope to be compared to someday?

This is a tough question because I like so many and I like different authors for different reasons. I like John Irving because he’s sharp-witted and nasty and he writes great characters. I like Dickens for his plot devices and for coming up with the best names ever. And I like Joanne Harris because her books are so scrumptious. Ideally, I’d love to learn how to stir together all these things to such a successful degree that people would have to use each of these authors just to sum me up. 🙂

What author do you admire yet hope never to be compared to?

Bram Stoker. Dracula is one of my very most favorite books but it’s the only one he’s remembered for. I’d settle for being remembered for writing just one book of genre-walloping proportions, of course, but, if we’re dreaming here, I’d rather not have the rest of my work so poorly remembered as the rest of his work seems to be.

What are your favorite words?

Paradox, Nuance, Tangerine, Debauchery.

Your favorite names?

Charity Pecksniff, John Peerybingle, Deputy Winks.

What are you writing at the moment?

“Efficiency Comparison Analysis of Plasma Sprayed Hot Runner Injection Molding Nozzle Heaters Verses Conventional Square and Round Cable Heaters.” Wait. That’s what my husband is writing. Currently, I’m writing a novel based on a short story of mine called “The Reading Lessons” which was first published at Son & Foe in the same issue as Von Carr’s excellent story, “East of the Sun, West of the Moon.” I’m also trying to get my Horror Housewife website launched. I’m hoping both my novel and the site will be ready to go by early next year.

This story started out with names and characters. Do you usually get bothered by characters when you’re starting out a story, or is a plot or an image just as likely to get you writing?

A plotline or a picture is just as likely to come to me first, I think. A few times, I’ve gotten a line — just one — maybe an opener, maybe an ending. I also like to steal from my novel manuscripts that have never gotten off the ground. If I can turn the idea into a short story and get that published, I feel like the novel sees a bit of life, too. My short story “The Good Part” is the infant child of a very thick vampire manuscript that I affectionately call the monstrosity.Perhaps some day the monstrosity will come into its own. If not, I like knowing that a small piece of it made it into print.

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