If there’s one person who lives horror as much as writes it, then it’s Thana Niveau. And her most recent project is to offer up a dyslexia-friendly horror book, Ultrasound Shadow, for Books on the Hill.
So, we invited her over to BtGS to tell us a bit about her favourite genre and also the importance of ensuring adults with dyslexia get to read quality fiction.
Your most recent novel, The House of Frozen Screams, involves a haunted house. Why do you think horror writers are drawn back to this concept again and again?
It’s a very primal fear. We all need shelter, a place to feel safe and secure. A home. But what if, instead, it felt threatening? What if it seemed like we weren’t alone there? The sense of violation from a burglary would be awful, but what if the invasion wasn’t by human intruders (at least not living ones)? Worse still, what if we weren’t even sure if what we were experiencing was real? We might feel we were going insane, that we couldn’t tell anyone what was happening.
We’re programmed to fear the unknown, the unseen. And the idea that our home could turn on us, no longer be a sanctuary, is a terrifying prospect. Whether we actually believe in ghosts in the rational light of day is irrelevant. Deep down, we’re a pretty superstitious species, so the idea of the haunted house hits the mark for most of us. Each one of us has our own idea of what a haunting would be like, so there’s no end to the variety of stories.
You’re a regular attendee at conventions and film festivals. What is it that really attracts you to them and what do you get out of going?
For all its flaws and failings, social media does help connect people who might otherwise be separated by distance. I’m shy and introverted by nature, but I went to my first Fantasycon already “knowing” several people thanks to Facebook, so it was wonderful to be able to interact in the Real World. Cons and festivals are the only time I get to see many of my friends, but staying in touch online makes it feel like no time has passed.
If I have to do signings or panels, it’s pretty exhausting (and sometimes it can feel like real work!), but there’s always a party atmosphere before, during, and after.
With film festivals, you get a whole different experience to watching movies at home. Certain films are absolutely made to be seen with an audience. And with an audience of fellow horror obsessives, it’s something truly special indeed. I will never forget the interactive thrill of films like Train to Busan and Final Destination 5.
Cons and festivals also offer the opportunity for cosplay, which is one of my super-geeky indulgences.
You live in a Gothic tower, with another horror writer, and you got married on Halloween. Horror is truly at the heart of your life. But do you have any guilty pleasures that are very definitely not horror-related?
I hate to think of any pleasure as “guilty.” But if you’re asking if I “cheat” on horror – I have to say yes! LOL. I’m a lifelong Star Trek fan and SF fan in general. Or maybe that’s just “genre” fan, since I’d have to include superhero movies, comics, epic fantasy, etc.
John and I have spent many, many hours in the world of Elder Scrolls – Oblivion and Skyrim – and we can’t wait for the next game. (I also hear they’re doing an SF game, which I’m super psyched about).
Also in the realm of games – we have Alistair and Chloe from Books on the Hill to thank for our love of Magic: the Gathering. Every week we get together for Game Night. And John and I used to think we only needed a bigger bookcase for the books! LOL
Books on the Hill Publishing is running a Kickstarter to produce adult fiction accessible to those with dyslexia. Why do you think there is a lack of adult-appropriate titles in this format?
Ignorance of the issue. I never knew anyone with dyslexia until I met Alistair, so I never realised there weren’t dyslexia-friendly books. I remember seeing something online a few years ago that took a page of text and simulated what it looks like for dyslexics. And it was challenging to read. If you’re blind, you can get books in Braille, but if you’re dyslexic I think you’re just expected to adapt, like left-handers are.
How do you go about writing a dyslexia-friendly book? Is the process at all different from writing conventional fiction?
Not at all. I’m not involved with the technical side of things; I’m just a writer. And stories for dyslexics are no different than stories for non-dyslexics. Or stories for any other group who have something like that in common. Sighted people might have a hard time reading Braille, but there’s nothing to stop non-dyslexic people reading dyslexia-friendly books to help support the cause.
(I should clarify that my story is actually a reprint. It’s from my first collection, long out of print. The vast majority of what I write is horror, and there are bound to be some horror fans who are dyslexic. If so, I hope they enjoy my offering!)
Thana Niveau was born to the wail of the Wendigo and the whisper of warp engines. So it’s no surprise that her literary aspirations have combined both the mythic and the speculative, gaining her publication in Interzone, Black Static, and numerous anthologies. Her fiction has been reprinted in Best New Horror and she has garnered British Fantasy Award nominations for best story and best collection along the way. She is a Halloween bride, sharing her life with fellow horror author John Llewelyn Probert in a crumbling Gothic tower filled with arcane books and curiosities. And toy dinosaurs.