Author Interview, Gothic Fiction, Podcast, Uncategorized

Author Interview ~ Nita Pan on Goremance, Villains, Writing Queerness, and Having Fun with Horror

Interview Transcript: Introducing the Author

Nita Pan

Nita Pan (she/they) is a nonbinary, demisexual/biromantic polyamorous and neurodivergent YA/Adult Own Voices writer of the soft, bloody and monstrous. After traveling throughout the United States and parts of Europe, and meeting people from all around the globe, they decided to put their strange and extraordinary experiences to good use. When not writing, she can be found re-watching Star Trek, wandering the stacks of her local library, and creeping around the local cemetery, talking to crumbling gravestones. 

Their work has more recently turned to exploring the slasher-romance/goremance genre, although has always flirted with horrormance in various forms, especially with gothic themes and elements.

You can find Nita Pan’s website here; on Twitter and Instagram [both @nitapanwrites] and get gothic romance, erotic horror and more in your inbox for the price of a coffee per month via their (18+ only) Patreon. Their first published short story, Life and Death, is available in serial format on their Patreon, or you can find it in the anthology FROM ASHES TO MAGIC.


podcast


Listen to the author interview on my podcast.

Spooky by Association

Among Nita’s current projects, which include the drafting-stage Gospel of Blood series, Eldritch Girls Just Want to Have Fun (co-written with C. M. Rosens), and the dark fantasy Nightmare Hours, some of which will be available as snippets on their Patreon, is the indie anthology SPOOKY BY ASSOCIATION.

If you like The Magnus Archives, Nita’s story has very similar energy with a twisty premise, and fits into another series/’verse that they are playing with at the moment.

The anthology features the following stories and a talented line-up.

Look out for updates on this, and the pre-order links, which will be available later this year (2021).

Click on the arrows to scroll through all 10 images in the embedded post

Author Interview Transcript: Introduction

CMR: Hello, welcome to the next episode of Eldritch Girl! I’ve got Nita Pan with me, which is exciting! Nita, would you like to introduce yourself to everyone?

NP: I’m Nita Pan and I’m a librarian and horror author, my pronouns are she/they, and I write stories based off of dreams, my various travel experiences and fictional tropes. My short story, Life and Death in From Ashes to Magic was published late 2019 and i’m currently serialising that on my Patreon /NitaPanWrites. When I’m not writing, I tend to read, listen to music, and just stare at the ceiling contemplating my entire existence.

CMR: Mood.

[Laughs]

CMR: Oh, so you’re currently editing an anthology as well and which I’m in which is exciting. What’s your story called that’s in that in the anthology because we’re gonna hear you read an excerpt of that for us.

NP: um yes, it’s called The Field Devours and it’s about a flesh eating corn field that stalks people.

CMR: Oh, the pun, I love it.

NP: It’s part of the SPOOKY BY ASSOCIATION horror anthology that I’m putting together, which is due to be released later this year. Here we go.

Extract from The Field Devours (2021)

“There is this field in the dark. I can’t help it. I go into it. It calls to me. It sees me. It has no eyes and it sees me. It -” 

The small man clears his throat, interrupting Lee. 

It’s a sharp grating sound that reminds Lee of nails on a chalkboard.

The man shifts in his respective plastic chair. Crosses his legs. The fabric of his khakis rustles loudly in that cramped library study room. “Sorry… Mr… Ms…”

Lee flinches as the man struggles to figure out what honorific to use with them. “Lee or Dawson is fine with me.”

“Lee… Dawson.” The man – Richard, Rick… Lee can’t remember his name and is too embarrassed to ask – rolls their full name over his tongue. 

Lee shivers. Their name sounds wrong in his mouth.

The man – The Recorder – pushes his thick-frame glasses up his nose with his middle finger.

Lee frowns and hooks their boot-clad feet around the legs of their chair. Was it on accident or was he flipping them off? If this guy is going to be a dick, they aren’t going to stick around.

Liar, they shoot at themself. You’ve got to tell someone your story. About what happened to Eric. Lee thinks about the blood. The field. Someone else has to know about the field. Lee isn’t crazy. Lee can’t be. 

The Recorder pulls out a cassette recorder from his pocket. “Would you repeat your name and opening statement for the recorder?”

Lee flicks their shaggy dark hair over their shoulder, exposing the teeth indents on their jaw. They tug on the sleeves of their hoodie – one of Eric’s hoodies – and tears threaten to spill. “Sure. My name is Lee Dawson and I am being hunted by a flesh-eating field.”

~ Nita Pan

Interview Transcript

CMR: I love that story. I’ve read the whole thing and it’s really good. It’s kind of like I can see, like the the kind of the Magnus Archives influence on it as well.

NP: [laughing] Yeah.

CMR: But it is very much its own thing, in that – I can’t give anything away, but I really did enjoy it. What other kinds of influences were there on it?

NP: Well, Children of the Corn was an idea, just because originally it was going to be like a group of people in the corn that were making people think that, like the corn was eating them, but then that didn’t really pan out. So I just stuck with the field itself eating people, but also just growing up surrounded by numerous cornfields.

CMR: That’ll do it. It’s that kind of Ordinary Gothic idea, the Gothic of where you live.

NP: Yeah.

CMR: So, who else is in the anthology apart from us?

NP: So we have – apologies if I butcher anyone’s names, I haven’t said any of these last names aloud:

On Reflection by Michelle Tang
Hitchhiking by Hester Steel
The Dark Pursuit by Frank Rudiger Lopes
Hide and Seek by Allie Pino
The Killing of Christian Pacey by Alice Scott
Gunslingers and Garlic by L. J. Thomas
The Purple Cloak by Joana Varanda
The Field Devours by Nita Pan
The Reluctant Husband by C. M. Rosens

CMR: Yay! And that’s going to come out the end of this year?

NP: Yes.

CMR: I’m excited, it’s got such a good range of stories in it. Do you want to say a little bit about the range, or is that giving too much away? Without spoilers, obviously.

NP: Yes. One is about what appears to be a haunted cabin on a cruise ship [On Reflection].

Another is written in second person and there’s just something very strange going on with that, with the main character, we’re not entirely sure where it’s going, but it goes in a very fun direction [Hitchhiking].

One [is] about a bit of an asshole professor, who’s trying to control something beyond his control [The Dark Pursuit].

There’s another one where there’s a ghost on a ship [Hide and Seek].

There’s an appearance with Death [The Killing of Christian Pacey].

There’s a Western vampire short story [Gunslingers and Garlic].

There’s an autobiographical ghost story [The Purple Cloak].

And then there is mine [The Field Devours], and then there is the one that gets to close it all up and have it leave everyone thinking about it, is the eldritch… um…

CMR: Mine’s the… eldritch 1930s one.

NP: Yeah, eldritch 1930s. That.

CMR: It’s hard to describe mine.

NP: But it’s not though! It’s – it’s very Weird.

CMR: It is very Weird. Like, Weird body horror. [Laughs]

NP: Yes.

CMR: Like, Michelle Tang’s one is really good, that kind of reminded me of Edgar Allan Poe, it has those kinds of edges. And I know she’s had a couple of short stories published in different anthologies recently, I think she’s in Chimera (Lost Boys Press, 2021).

NP: I believe so.

CMR: And a couple of other people are in different things as well, like [L. J. Thomas] has got a novel out, and I’m beta-reading another novel she’s written as well which is a YA Bluebeard retelling, which is really cool.

NP: Oh, I can’t wait to read that one.

[laughs]

CMR: It’s just really nice, I’ve discovered loads of different voices. Yeah. How does The Field Devours map onto your other work? Because you do have a load of different things that you write. I really liked your published story Life and Death, which is the dark fantasy, very tragic romance, star-crossed immortal gods story that goes in a really dark tragic direction which I love so much, and that’s being serialized on your Patreon at the moment for people who don’t want to buy the anthology – you can just get it for £3.50 per month.

Do you feel your work going in a particular direction or do you just write what you feel you want to write about and how does that work for you?

NP: My writing is actually very seasonal, so it really depends on the season and what mood I’m in on what type of genre or content I want to write. Overall there’s like several tropes like I really am a sucker for enemies two lovers or enemy lovers, found family, villain love interest slash the villains winning, but overall it really just depends on my mood on what I’m working on, and what type of genre. I don’t write as much YA as I used to, but I do have a couple YA projects that I do want to finish writing.

CMR: What are those?

NP: One is a secret project that not even you get to know about.

CMR: OK. Dammit!

NP: Otherwise I won’t end up finishing writing it. And the other one is a murdery werewolf book, tentatively titled The Legend of Shadow-Wolf Forest, just basically exactly just werewolves and murder, attempted murder, there’s a scene where a character gets like the whole Carrie at prom thing going on there with rabbits’ blood.

CMR: That sounds great.

NP: Absolutely delightful!

CMR: That does actually track, because… [laughter] you have started to write more gore, body horror, and goremance… that’s a new direction. Anyone I think reading Life and Death, and then reading some of your most recent stuff is going to kind of have that experience of…

NP: whiplash.

CMR: genre whiplash, yeah. And because, well, for anyone who doesn’t know, we are co-writing a goremance together which is Eldritch Girls Just Want To Have Fun, which is slated to come out next year, and we’re sort of in the first draft of that at the moment.

So what do you like about writing goremance and erotic horror?

NP: I like writing both of them, just because of the lack of any boundaries and being able to combine the whole… like, I firmly believe that romance and horror go hand in hand, and it’s just a lot of fun combining the two because they just they can blend so seamlessly together, and it really paints a really pretty – pretty, bloody, picture.

CMR: Yeah, I think romance and horror go so well together because you’ve got a lot of tropes in romance that can be quite problematic, sometimes in terms of the dynamics and the relationships between the characters, and all you have to do to explore those a little bit more and push them to a kind of more logical conclusion, or interrogate them, is to put them into the horror genre.

And it’s those sorts of like, how do you give somebody agency in a relationship or how do you kind of address those sorts of power imbalances, and then horror is a really good way of exploring anxieties within romance and, like those sorts of tensions as well, but yeah.

NP: All of that. I mean when I get into a story there’s parts where I’m like okay, this comes from a little… This is like a little bit deeper and more complex than when I start up, but when I start out a story it’s really I just have the aesthetic of romance, and then just blood and gore combined and then from there, it gets a little bit more complicated, but the way I start out it’s not like I have a goal or a mission with a project, it’s just – I write it to have fun.

CMR: I think that’s really important though. If you’re not having fun with it, it doesn’t read as well and it’s not like it, it just doesn’t flow as a project if you’re not really into it. So you’ve got your… writing in Eldritch Girls, where you’re writing the perspective of Tosh Haraldson, who is your original character for that. And this is actually based off your idea, but I kind of was like oh I love this idea, please write this with me!

NP: Yes.

CMR: How does Tosh fit into this, because he is not a love interest let’s be fair.

NP: No, he’s not. I just started with him, it was like he was the first new character that I’d come up with in a really long time, and so I was like just starting from scratch and I was like, what can I do for a character that I’m like, I’ll make the absolute ideal love interest just gone terribly wrong, and all of his choices reflect that. I suppose he’s just someone who experienced some family- and religious-based trauma, but instead of like taking control of his life, he just continues to blame all of his problems on the trauma instead of trying to heal from it, and so consequently, he just has a lot of anger issues, is yeah, very murderous, like is literally a stab-first-ask-questions-later person. But I would say, the only redeeming quality is that he adores Sasha, the other – your character.

CMR: Yeah, but that’s only because he’s very into the idea of her killing him. Horribly. Like, really violently. Because that’s what he’s into. That whole dynamic is incredibly toxic and she’s also like not… she’s nobody’s ideal love interest, but she’s that kind of princess character who also kills people for fun. Well, not for fun, but because she thinks it’s art.

NP: And we love that for her.

CMR: So that’s what people can expect from Eldritch Girls. It’s kind of mild splatterpunk, would you say that’s fair?

NP: Yeah. I think, with the early readers that we have had, it’s like people go into it expecting it to be like – the events of the first chapter to be like, fake. And like, oh no this isn’t really happening, you know, this is this is too terrible to actually be happening. Then, oh nope, this is happening, this is… this is. So, people have hope for the characters I think that they’re not as terrible as they are, and they’re very, very wrong to have that hope.

CMR: Yeah, so it opens with a snuff film audition which is live. And you get it from Tosh’s perspective, watching Sasha’s audition while she’s carving somebody up alive who’s strapped down to a gurney, and then you get it from Sasha’s perspective, and Sasha’s perspective is her thinking about the choreography. Whereas Tosh’s perspective is like, this is really hot. [laughter] So much blood.

CMR: What’s your favourite bit of that awful relationship so far that we’ve written?

NP: I just like their dynamic. He is not the hero, she is not a damsel in distress, if anything, it’s the other way around. But he’ll go into it thinking that he’s – not a hero – but not thinking he’s the damsel in distress, he’ll go into it not seeing himself that way, and get himself into a situation where someone, namely Sasha, has to get him out of a bind. This is the book you’re getting into.

[laughter]

CMR: Bu um – I really like the transition from snuff films and gangsters to a man-eating field. It think that’s great.

NP: Yeah. I drafted a whole short story, edited it in one of the rounds, then started a couple of other ones in a completely – like not completely unrelated genre, just more flowery writing, with vampires and set in a cold setting, so you get you get that great blood-on-snow aesthetic. But yeah, then writing The Field Devours was a bit of a whiplash from that too so.

CMR: Yeah, so the vampire-cannibal romance is your Gospel of Blood series idea. Is that going on Patreon, or is that…?

NP: A Savior, Dark which is basically the vampire Jesus and cannibal Mary Magdalene story is not going on Patreon, I want to query that. I want to try, so. There are several other short stories instead in the universe, one is Mary mother of God, with an axe-lesbian Joseph, and then there’s another one with a vampire Esther – not vampire Esther but magician Esther, the King that she’s forced to marry is a vampire, so there’s – you have a fun dynamic there, there’s a lot of hatemance going on there. And those I’m planning to put on Patreon.

CMR: I love it. Cool. I’m really excited for that. I am a Patreon supporter, so I’m just like, mwahahaha. I get access to all of this joy.

What’s your favourite trope to write? I know you said there are a few tropes that pop up in your work, or nearly always pop up in your work.

NP: I really like writing, whether it be platonic or romantic, relationships that just really shouldn’t be. Like these two people or these three people or four people should not be around each other like this, or interacting like, just. Whether or not some of them are bad people or they just need a lot of therapy, and they shouldn’t be interacting with people in the depth that they are until they get things sorted out… I just like writing the messy relationships.

CMR: Yeah, mess is fun to write. It’s also quite cathartic to write as well. I think that maps onto Eldritch Girls quite well in that absolutely disastrous way that everyone deserves love but not them, but they’re going to get it anyway because the world is fundamentally unfair. What about – I mean you haven’t got… well there is a the tragic romance between Lee and Eric in Field Devours, so I was going to say not in that, but you did, right, you did get that tragic scene in there, like that tragic backstory.

NP: [gleefully] Yes I did.

CMR: You’ve got a lot of different rep [representation] in your work as well and, like, everybody is slightly queer which I like, in some sort of way. So Lee [The Field Devours] is nonbinary, Tosh [Eldritch Girls] is cis but bisexual…

NP: Flamingly bisexual.

CMR: Very, yeah! Disaster bi. [laughs] So what other rep do you have in your work in general, and why do you think you want to tell those stories?

NP: I think, basically, I think there’s maybe like out of all the work that I’ve written maybe about five straight characters and everyone else’s some shade of queer. Whether or not it’s like super on page or like they’re in you know, like a obviously queer relationship or not um but, I think it’s just because I got bored of reading about the same type of relationships and romances of just the same cis-female and male couple where just it’s the same thing… it just… I mean, not that I don’t like to read those or watch those every now and then, but it sort of got boring after a while, so I’m like, well, I don’t have to write that, so.

CMR: Yeah it’s very liberating I think when you kind of realize, you can write stories that map more closely to your story, or stories that are more things that you actually wanted to read growing up, but yeah.

How do you find it, like, mapping those sorts of things on to the horror genre and bringing different kinds of rep to that? How does that work for you?

NP: My biggest worry was the ‘killing your gays’ trope, but I think I circumvented that by making everyone gay. I don’t know if it works or not, but that’s what I’m doing.

CMR: Yeah, but I think that’s important to have just stories that don’t revolve around like the sexuality of your characters or the gender of your characters being the main part of the plot, and I think the more stories that we have with people just being allowed to be in different kinds of narratives, the better it is in general.

NP: Yeah… there is just a lot of books where – you know, there’s a lot of really good ones coming out where it’s not about the characters’ gender or sexuality that’s coming up, but previously, like the last several years, there weren’t that many that were bestsellers or well known that were coming out, it was always in the ones that were Coming Out [Narratives].

Not that these ones aren’t okay, it’s just when you have the only books available are ones where it’s revolving around the characters’ sexuality or gender, and not just them as a person, I mean it gets a little bit. I don’t know it, it feels like there’s a lot of focus on queer pain, which is what a lot of these stories are about. It would be nice if they were seen as people only just doing things on the page, and maybe something [about their sexuality/gender] gets mentioned once or twice, like how it’s bound to be in a lot of settings and scenarios, like where you place the book at, but overall it’s like, why can’t people just write queer people as people?

So that’s just where I was coming from, like not wanting to focus on the whole aspect of gender and sexuality, and more just on them, on other aspects of them as people.

CMR: Yeah and I think that’s it’s also really important in stories where like you have queer villains, because I think growing up we’ve had so many queer-coded villains, queerness as an inherently villainous thing, I think I just found those were the characters that I was just really drawn to growing up like, ooh I wonder why…

NP: Same!

CMR: Like, what is it, why is this character so fabulous?! I was definitely into Scar [Lion King 1994] and Maleficent [Sleeping Beauty 1959] and like there was all my really early kind of teeny crushes I guess, I so loved them, and it’s interesting now because I’m kind of worried about… I don’t know if you feel like this as well, like, writing villains who are queer feels very normal to me and feels very natural to me and feels very like comforting as a thing, but again, it only works if you’re everybody else is, so you’ve got that kind of balance because otherwise you’re just… like I’m always worried about perpetuating negative stereotypes by telling a story that I want to tell.

Kind of telling my story that I want to tell, but I feel more comfortable telling certain parts of my story through a villainous character, or an anti-villain character and antihero character. Because some parts of stuff or some parts of life, are just messy and they are not very nice and it’s much easier to interrogate that and to pick that apart through the lens of a character is not your quintessential hero.

I don’t know, I think the balance is really hard to get right, but it’s something I really enjoy reading as well, so.

NP: I do think with me is that, like you, it’s like it was a lot of the villains, that I always would connect to growing up and stuff like that so it’s like I already liked the villains, and then, when a lot of them are just queer coded it’s like, I like them even more as I’m getting older and stuff like that, and I’m like, oh, well, might as well just write everyone as some shade of villain and have a good time.

[laughter]

CMR: Yes! I think sometimes when you’re reading books about heroes and villains in that kind of clear cut way, sometimes what the heroes actually stand for I don’t necessarily connect with. The one trope I really hate is that it turns out the villain is villainous because they are so alone or they’ve been so ostracized, and then the response the hero has to that is to isolate them even more by incarceration or you know, like removing them from their support system of hench people, like why are you doing this? They were the only people they had! I just really hate that. That’s my least favorite trope I think.

It’s that idea that these people are set up as villains in the story and then deserve to be alone forever just because the hero thinks so, and you’re supposed to agree with that, because you’re supposed to connect with the hero, and there is no other rationale. Does that make sense?

NP: Yeah, yeah it does. That one annoys me a lot, and the one where they always… This is very, very basic but it’s the one where they always create this amazing tension between the hero and the villain and it’s – they completely set it up, I mean, even though you know that most authors, or at least authors that have been that are widely published, don’t go for it, but where it’s just like you could have this perfect… whether or not it be like the hero descending into villainy or both of them having their own separate goals, but still like romancing each other, like I want to have a villain and a main character as endgame. I just want more of that.

CMR: I think it happens more in dark adult fantasy.

NP: Yeah.

CMR: And I think that’s where horrormance can really come into its own with those sorts of blending and problematising and complicating things.

NP: No, yeah I agree with that. I think with horror there’s more freedom to create the messy relationships, like the really messy ones, and explore the different dynamics with that.

CMR: And with horror, it allows you to see the outcome of that even if the outcome is horrific. Because that’s kind of the point of the genre is to horrify you or to have an effect on the reader that is not necessarily a positive effect. I think we get a lot of the same things out of writing that, like I would say definitely that Tosh and Sash’s relationship is not a positive example of a romance.

NP: No, it’s not! Not at all! And it’s like, god, I hope there aren’t people like them, but there are people like them who have relationships.

CMR: Yes! Oh god. It’s a lot of fun to write the dialogue, because we co-wrote dialogue together, so it’s yeah it’s really fun just lurking in the shared [Google Doc] filling in lines, then you filling in your lines when it’s my turn, and it just works so well.

NP: It’s a lot of fun. Oh, I miss it.

CMR: We’ll get back to it. We’ve both been doing other stuff. I mean obviously the Spooky by Association anthology is something that’s taken up a lot of your time, putting that together and sorting all of the editing out and getting cover artists and potential illustrators (fingers crossed!) So excited. It’s such a lovely group of stories as well and I don’t think there is anything very kind of extreme and splatterpunk-y in there.

NP: No, there isn’t, but each person’s voice is very clear. It’s really nice like so anyone else who reads it and then wants to find more stuff by whatever of the authors, it’s like, you get a very clear picture of their voice and I, and I believe content too, of what they write.

CMR: Yeah definitely, I think because we’ve all been reading the doc as a whole and, like sort of line editing our stuff and each other’s stuff before it goes off to the editor, which is really lovely actually because it’s become like a really nice community project which I really like, so thank you for doing that, that’s been really, really fun to be part of and I really appreciate it.

And yeah it’s been it’s been lovely to kind of put that together and get a sense of different people’s styles and I think I found quite a lot of authors that I haven’t read anything by before. Yeah.

I think, with The Field Devours as well it’s, that’s almost like it’s a slightly different voice for you?

NP: It’s because part of it’s in first person. I used to write a lot of first person, like all I used to write was first person and I wrote probably you know, maybe 400,000 words in first person of various projects over the years and then I switched over to third person past tense. And that was a little bit of a different voice so it’s fun, because The Field Devours is written in both third person and first person so it’s very interesting combination just to see how my voice changes a little bit with each new section.

CMR: Yeah I really enjoyed reading it, and reading your Patreon posts as well, like I can see the variation in your voice, which is really cool, because I read Life and Death, and that was where – and I’d kind of read a little bit of your stuff before, some of your unpublished stuff, and that had been like third person, like close third person perspective, and then I read Life and Death, which is free verse and set out very differently to your prose. and it’s first person, and it was such a change, but it was such a good change, and it really showed how much range you have as an author.

That was the story that I really gelled with the philosophy, I guess, like the tragic philosophy of it and I kind of went yeah I actually think I really want to write something with this person.

NP: Aw!

CMR: Yeah, that was that was kind of my instrumental moment, and being like if I ever get a chance to write something with you I will take that. I really enjoyed it. And so, as I said, that’s being serialised on your Patreon. So people can go on there and see that. I really enjoy experiencing your other work through your Patreon as well, so there’s like poems and other short stories. And you’ve got is it two in second person or one?

NP: Both of them are in second person, but they’re like, instead of ‘you’re going over here and you’re doing this’, it’s sort of like a letter, like it’s directed to another character in the story.

CMR: What’s your next story for the Patreon?

NP: Oh. Oh lord, I have three that I’m trying to debate which is going to be my next project for it, and I’m going to just decide within the next couple of days and just finish it, edit it, but either… one of them is going to be one of the ones from the Gospel of Blood universe. One is the Eldritch Girls prequel. One is basically a demon and a witch are getting chased across the nine circles of Hell trying to get back to the mortal world.

CMR: That one’s quite smutty, isn’t it?

NP: I’m hoping, I can finally make it smutty, yes.

CMR: Yeah so if you want to get in on this and go to patreon.com/nitapanwrites and yeah, you will not be disappointed. Content warnings abound, but hopefully, you will not be disappointed. It’s super cheap as well guys. It’s super cheap. Like your top tier is what, $4.50?

NP: $4.50, yes.

CMR: That’s £3.50 in British Pounds. Come on. Worth it. Well, yeah! Thank you ever so much coming on and it’s been really lovely to have you.

NP: Yes, thank you for having me and my ramblings.

CMR: Very welcome, I shall be rambling at you later!

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