Author Interview, Gothic Fiction, Longread, Podcast

Interview with Suzan Palumbo ~ Skin Thief coming Oct 2023


Suzan Palumbo is a Nebula finalist, active member of the HWA, Co Administrator of the Ignyte Awards and a member of the Hugo nominated FIYAHCON team. She is also a former Associate Editor of  “Shimmer” magazine.

Her debut dark fantasy/horror short story collection “Skin Thief: Stories” will be published by Neon Hemlock in Fall 2023.

Her novella “Countess” will be published by ECW Press in spring 2024.

Her writing has been published or is forth coming in Lightspeed Magazine, Fantasy, The Deadlands, The Dark Magazine, PseudoPod, Fireside Fiction Quarterly, PodCastle, Anathema: Spec Fic from the Margins and other venues. She is officially represented by Michael Curry of the Donald Maass Literary Agency and tweets at @sillysyntax. When she isn’t writing, she can be found sketching, listening to new wave or wandering her local misty forests. 

Coming in Oct 2023 from Neon Hemlock Press

Interview Transcript: Introduction

CMR: Hello! Welcome back to Eldritch Girl, and I’ve got Suzan Palumbo with me for this episode. And, Suzan, would you like to introduce yourself?

SP: Hi, I’m Suzan Palumbo, I am a dark fantasy and horror writer, though next year I have a space opera coming out, to throw a wrench in there. I’m originally from Trinidad and Tobago, I was born there, and I emigrated with my parents to Canada.

I co-founded the IGNYTE Awards with L. D. Lewis; I am an editor; I will be editing an issue of Strange Horizons this year, the Caribbean issue that comes out in October.

I like to write. I like to read. I love horror. I love everything Gothic. I love fashion, and I love plants.

CMR: That’s amazing. Thank you for that. I’m really excited for your Skin Thief anthology that’s coming out soon as well, and the cover looks amazing. So that’s going to be posted in the Transcript for everyone to see.

Are you going to read an extract from that? What extract have you got for us?

SP: So I’m going to read something very, very short.

CMR: Perfect.

SP: It’s in the collection, and since you sent your questions ahead earlier –

CMR: I did.

SP: And you mentioned “Laughter Among the Trees” in the questions, so I’m going to read from that, so that we have a reference point.

CMR: That’s really good. Yeah. So “Laughter Among the Trees” is freely available as part of the So I’m going to put a link to that in the transcript as well, so everyone can read the whole thing. But I really love that. And I’m going to link to your other work that’s freely available as well, Suzan. So please go for it.

SP: Awesome. So this is going to be very short, and I’m going to just make a note here that there is self harm, and it’s on screen on this, on this excerpt that I’m going to read. In this story. What happens is that there is a Trinidadian Canadian family. They’ve gone camping, and the younger sister Sab has gone missing. And she was last seen with a boy named Greg. And the older sister Anna is sort of dealing with the fallout and the sort of survivor grief of her sister disappearing.

So I am going to start.


Read the whole thing here:

Dark Magazine Feb 2021

Sab remained between us. Her absence slicked over my skin, like a membrane. I glimpsed her, as she was, bounding up the stairs; breathed her scent as I walked by her locked room; heard her whisper, “shut up, loser” before I drifted to sleep. I never saw Greg again. He’d gotten what he’d wanted.

One night, while looking at myself in the mirror, Sab’s voice clawed up my throat reflexively. “You’re ugly. Everyone hates you.”

“You’re a bitch, Sab,” I snapped back.

A smile cracked my lips. From then on, whenever I was alone, I spoke for Sab.

There were no school hikes for me. No week-long grade ten wilderness trip or renting a cabin at Wasaga Beach with my friends when I turned seventeen. Mom kept me home from everything “wild.” I was free, as long as I was caged within the steel and concrete confines of the city.

When she walked in on me and Marit, a university “friend” I’d brought home, kissing on my bed, she closed the door without a word. We went downstairs, braced for a fight. Mom was sitting at the kitchen table, waiting.

“All yuh want some cake?” she asked, as if this were a cherished routine.

“Yes, thank you,” Marit said. She slid into the chair across from my mother and quirked her lips into a smile. I raised my eyebrows as Mom stiffened and passed Marit a plate of coconut cake. I remember stilted small talk and Marit asking my mother about her job while being utterly charming. Mom looked back and forth between us. When Marit had licked her fork clean, we walked her to the door.

“Come back anytime.” Mom was distant but sincere.

“Thank you, Mrs. Dindiyal. I will.” Marit winked at me before she turned and left. I closed the door and leaned my back against it.

“So?” I asked breaking the prickly silence. “Do you like her?”

“Ana.” She grimaced, like she’d tasted rancid milk. “She looks like an older Sab.”

“Fuck that.” I left her at the bottom of the stairs. I locked myself in my bathroom and steadied myself against the vanity. A voice bubbled up my throat. It was grittier than my earlier versions of Sab’s voice.

“She looks exactly like me,” I whispered. I wretched bile into the sink until the acid scorched my throat.

I moved out after graduation and survived by feeding off my memories of Sab like a maggot. I blended her voice with mine, usurped her unquestioning confidence to land a job at a prestigious law firm; transposed her charm into adulthood and used it to fuck the women I wanted. I locked pathetic Ana inside me, trotting her out for family and the occasional drinks with Marit. I flooded the space left by Sab while it ate Dad’s liver and stole Mom’s connection to the present.

I constructed the life I dreamed Sab would have had and lived it. Sab owned a waterfront condo and sipped champagne with top tier clients. Sab was profiled in the Saturday paper as the quintessential immigrant success story. Sab comforted relatives and said, “Thank you for coming,” at Dad’s funeral. Sab organized mom’s move into a nursing home when she could no longer live alone.

Sab, Sab, Sab. I glutted myself on the potential of her unfinished life. Yet, the frost that had blossomed in me so long ago had fractalized, coating my intestines and invading my lungs. Sometimes, I’d take a knife to the inside of my upper arm and slide the blade beneath my skin to check if I was completely numb. The face reflected in the blade was always my own.

Soon, I only allowed Anna to crawl out of the morgue inside me to visit Mom at the retirement home.

Dark Magazine Feb 2021 – “Laughter Among the Trees” by Suzan Palumbo

Interview Transcript

SP: I’ll stop there.

CMR: oooh my god.

SP: Such difficult words.

CMR: I find that when you’re reading an extract it’s like, oh, this would be the perfect one to illustrate this. Oh, my God! I actually have to read it!

SP: Yeah! And I can’t, like, oh no I’m reading this, OH NO I SWORE in this story!

CMR: There was one line I had to do like 3 or 4 times, because I just couldn’t say it. There- it had a lot of ss and shh in the same line, and I just couldn’t make my mouth say those sounds correctly.

SP: oh no, yeah.

CMR: You did great, like that was great. I’m going to put a link to that in the transcript, so that people can read the whole thing. and I really recommend that you do, because “Laughter Among the Trees” is so good. So let’s talk about the way that body horror in general shows up in your work, and where that comes from I know that’s like, a very big, like… ‘Body Horror’ covers a lot of bases.

 I really like the way that it kind of appears in “Laughter Among the Trees” particularly, and those sorts of images of, you know, “the morgue inside her”, and maggots, and those kinds of ideas about herself, and where that… you know, which I think is kind of a body horror imagery, even though there’s nothing physical going on externally at that point.

So do you find yourself looking at the body as a site of horror for specific reasons, and how does that show up in your work?

SP: So this is an interesting question for me, because when I first started writing, right, I just started writing stories, and I was writing them, and they were all horror or horror related. And I started noticing a trend where I kept writing about skin. Different kinds of skin, or different kinds of veneers, or different kinds of outer shells, and them forming or peeling off, or shifting or changing. And so I looked at, probably about 2 years ago, I looked back at all my work, and I was like, Wow! You are really obsessed with body or and skin and shape shifting, but I didn’t realize it at the time while I was doing it.

And I think when I had hindsight I was like, okay. Well, why, why is why are you obsessed with this?

And I think it’s because writing is often therapy. and I think I have a lot of issues.

CMR: (agrees with the ‘writing is therapy’ part)

SP: I think so. Yeah, a lot of those issues are about. You know. What I feel is okay to present on the outside, and what I am like on the inside, and that sort of negotiation.

And I think in society we have a lot of rules, and we have a lot of, you know, appropriate behaviour and things like that. But I think, why I keep coming back to body horror specifically, is because it represents probably one of the most intimate conflicts you can have.

When you’re talking about conflicts and stories, they’re always like, you know, a man versus society – “man” – man versus society, man versus nature, and then they have men versus himself. And you know, I’m really interested in that, because that conflict is one that’s really hard to escape. It’s really hard to escape the conflict you have inside yourself. You have to really bury it if you, if you want to get away from it, and I like that. I like how visceral it is, and I like how it’s very hard to ignore, and I like that, when I’m writing. I think that’s why I keep coming up with body horror because it’s like your body is rebelling against you.

CMR: Mmhm.

SP: You can change houses, it’s much harder to change your body. You can, but it’s much harder. It involves more emotionally. I think.

CMR: It does. Yeah, that’s yeah, that’s yeah, that’s really cool. Yeah, I love the idea of that kind of you… You inhabit different shells or different personas and different, like a hermit crab, right? Or you grow to fit something. And then you have to shrug it off because you’re no longer that person, and you have to find something that fits you, and, like all of that kind of internal struggle that’s manifested through like a physical, visceral engagement with your physicality and stuff like that that really fascinating. Yeah. And I think you’re right. Like, I think when we do write, when we write horror, and I think for me as well as a lot of it is very therapeutic, and it’s a lot of internal struggles, I think. Yeah, I can kind of relate to that. Yeah.

SP: For me, for me everyone’s like, oh, why would you want to write horror, and I’m like because I’m processing all of these things and processing thoughts and processing, you know, what has happened to me what I think is happening, what happens to other people? And yeah, that’s why I do it. It’s it’s therapy. It’s cheaper than paying. Yeah.


Body Horror and Folklore

CMR: And yeah, and there’s like there’s other elements to it as well, I think as well like you’ve got so much going on in some of the short stories because they’re so layered. I really like – like I love how much you cram into a very short space. And you’ve got really beautiful kind of lyrical prose that I really enjoy. And yeah, I noticed there was some engagement with folklore – folkloric elements, and ghosts and paranormal kind of things in your work as well. How does body horror intersect with folklore in your work, or does it?

SP: It does! So I write different… There are different folklore traditions. I guess they do sort of interconnect. So there’s… I’m from Trinidad. So we have our own sort of folklore that has developed through it. It’s British. It’s French. It’s Spanish; it’s West African. It’s South Asian. It’s indigenous it’s all of those things.

And so we have our own folklore stories, and a lot of them are very, very physical. A lot of them are our body horror. We have a we have a vampire called the soucouyant, and she’s a woman. She’s an older woman who sheds her skin and flies like a ball of fire into the night to find someone to suck their blood. And that shedding of the skin is very body horror. And we have another one, douen [pron. dwen].

That story is about a child who has died and was not baptized, and they come back as a ghost. But their feet are backwards. That’s very body horror.

Yeah. we have another one, La Diablesse, that’s a woman who’s a temptress and she walks the lanes at night, luring men. And they’re really really into her, but when they get her in a position where they’re going to do something with her, they find that she has a cow’s leg. She doesn’t have a human foot, or two human feet. She has a cow’s leg and a human foot, and that’s sort of Body Horror-ish! So it I don’t want to say that, like people who have these sort of things going on just regularly in real life, that they’re “body horror”. It’s the sort of something bad has happened to you. And now you have to deal with a change, sort of thing. That’s the horror aspect.

CMR: Yeah, yeah. Yeah. like the becoming monstrous, or like becoming in some way uncanny or like it’s something you don’t recognize. And then oh, my God, what is this?

SP: There are people like, I don’t want to say that that is “a horror”. Generally it’s not that, you know.

CMR: Hmm.

SP: It’s a difficult topic to talk about, is it? It’s like, what is body horror exactly? Something that’s one person sees as horrific might not be horrific to somebody else, because that’s normal to them. That’s how they are in an everyday situation. But that’s how it shows up in our folklore where it’s something that you expect, and then it’s a little bit different. It’s not what you expected.

SP: It’s a difficult topic to talk about, is it? It’s like, what is body horror? Exactly. Something that’s one person sees as horrific might not be horrific to somebody else, because that’s normal to them. That’s how they are in an everyday situation. But that’s how it shows up in our folklore where it’s something that you expect, and then it’s a little bit different. It’s not what you expected.

CMR: Yeah, and also if it’s happening to you, and you are not expecting to undergo a change, it’s a cause of concern. It’s a cause of terror. It’s a cause of like some things happening within you that you can’t explain that you don’t understand that’s paranormal. That’s out of your control, potentially, or supernatural or something like that, and it’s beyond the bounds, beyond the regions of explanation as well. I think there’s that kind of especially with folklore. Isn’t it. Like all of that. You can’t explain it in normal terms, like you have to… There’s a supernatural explanation or religious explanation, or, you know, oh, it’s just something that happens that maybe you can’t control, or you have to resort to some sort of magic, or some sort of something that is not regulated by a certain area of society that that you live in, or like mainstream society, whatever that means to me, and then you have to go to the edges of your society to figure out what’s going on, or you have to move beyond what you thought of as as normal and safe. And you have to try and figure things out that way.

So yeah, yeah, does that make sense?

SP: Oh, no, it certainly does it. It’s interesting because folklore has … It doesn’t have necessarily the sense the sort of consciousness that I do or we do now today of what what is, quote, unquote, “normal”, and what is horror, and what isn’t horror, so.

But that’s what I grew up with, those folklore stories, and they’re hundreds of years old, and they’ve been passed down. And so they do really influence my work.

Yeah. So I mean it’s not necessarily what I believe, but those sort of images are in there for sure.

CMR: That vampire sounds amazing.

SP: Oh!

CMR: But why does she shed her skin? What’s going on with that?

SP: It happens okay?

CMR: It just happens.


SP: Okay so the whole point of that story, that folklore story, is that is has a historical basis. There is an old woman who lives in a certain area, and they’re not married, and no one knows why or how they they have been able to have this property. And women really having property sometimes causes people to stress. Because why? Why does this woman have control of her life or her property?

So people made up the story that she had made a deal with the devil. And that’s why she’s able to have a house and live on her own. But as part of that deal with the devil at night she sheds her skin and puts it in a mortar. You know the cooking…

CMR: mortar and pestle? Yes.

SP: Yeah, so she puts it in a mortar, and she flies off to find somebody to suck their blood because she doesn’t have a job or anything. So that’s how she sustains it herself. Right? She sort of like, I don’t know, like smoke or something. She comes into your house while you’re sleeping, and she sucks your blood, and then she leaves, and you wake up with 2 bruises on your neck or on your leg, or on your arm, and the way to stop her is, you’ve got to put like rice grains on the windowsill. And she cannot resist counting these things. So if you want to keep her out, you put that there and then she’ll stop, and she’ll start counting, and then the sun will start rising. She has to leave. She has to go back home, so she you you’re protected. She won’t get in your house because she has to stay outside counting.

And if you really want to kill her, you break into her house and put salt in her mortar where her skin is, and when she tries to put it back on it’s too small, and then the sun comes up and she dies.

CMR: Oh, wow, okay, that’s really cool. I’ve heard the counting thing, that’s a European thing as well isn’t it?

SP: Yeah! That’s where we get it from!

CMR: …that vampires are weirdly compulsive about needing to count stuff.

SP: Lots of stuff.

CMR: I don’t know why but I’m really interested to where that has come from like.

SP: Yeah, that is interesting.

CMR: But yeah, it’s not we like. But anyway, yeah, so I had that skin thing is really cool, because that’s almost like, you know, the selkie myth?

SP: Exactly yeah!

CMR: or like the werewolf myth, you know like where they become wolves, and if you steal the human skin they can’t change back, I’m thinking like in Bisclavret, Marie de France’s lai, where he becomes a wolf and then his wife steals his human skin and he’s stuck as a wolf forever? And like, yeah, he bites her nose off as punishment.

SP: Well it’s stressful being a wolf all the time!

CMR: Damn right! Especially at a time when people hunt wolves. And yeah like that’s really interesting. I haven’t heard of a vampire shedding her skin before. That’s a really cool mix, I love folklore so much. Have you used any of that in Skin Thief, in your collection?

SP: Oh, yeah, the whole book is that.

CMR: Amazing.

SP: Yeah, I actually have a story like that, with the with the vampire shedding her skin – “vampire”. It’s at PseudoPod. It’s called Tara’s Mother’s Skin. So it’s about a girl, and she encounters one of these one of these soucouyants, and she’s determined to- because the villagers are like, oh, she’s the village vampire, you should not go there – and she’s determined to say no! She’s a lovely lady! And I’m going to redeem her.


CMR: Oh no.


SP: It’s that in a way, I guess. I won’t spoil it. The whole collection is sort of like, because I write so much about shape-shifting and body shifting and changes, the whole collection is that; sort of paranormal, or folkloric, (except one story), where people sort of change or lose their skin. And I actually I did a selkie story, but with deer instead of … seals?

CMR: ooh!

SP: Seals?

CMR: Yeah, seals.

SP: So it starts off with more Western sort of shape shifters. And then, as the stories go on at the end it’s very Trinidadian shape shifters. I did this on purpose. It’s a shift in the actual arc of the story. You shift from being very Canadian to very Trinidadian at the end. So I’ve ordered it that way on purpose. The stories are all shape-shifting, but the book itself is shape-shifting from someone who is very Canadian-voiced to someone who is very Trinidadian-voiced, because I’m both.

CMR: Yeah! That’s amazing. Yeah that’s really cool. I love it when a collection is ordered in a specific way, so like you can either dip in and out if you want, but then you kind of lose the sense of the overall arc, if there is one, and it’s like, yeah, it’s really cool to see how people have structured the anthology.

SP: Well, I have people who are like, no I’ll just read them in any order, and I’m like – please read mine in order!! Please! I made this on purpose this way! But it’s okay, just read it. It’s fine if you don’t do that, but, like. You know.

CMR: It’s like how artists like music artists. Sometimes you know, structure their albums in a particular way, and I’m one of those nightmare people that just like put it on shuffle. Ruined it. No, there’s a story!

SP: It’s like a candy box, you know you can just pick and enjoy.

CMR: I’m really excited to read it.

SP: I’m really excited for you to read it! I’m really excited for everyone to read it!

CMR: Yeah. What remind us when it comes out again? October?

SP: It comes out in October, for Spooky Season.

CMR: Perfect. Perfect time. So far away and yet so close.

SP: I know. It’ll be here in a minute.

Dysfunctional Families in Suzan Palumbo’s Dark Fiction

CMR: Yeah, going back to “Laughter Among the Trees” just for a second, because I also want to pick up on another theme in your work, and maybe we could talk about how that manifests in the Skin Thief collection as well. But I’m thinking specifically about the idea of family and the darker side of family dynamics that shows up in “Laughter Among the Trees” in particular, and especially in that extract that you read out for us, because you’ve got this amazing imagery of being inhabited by the memory of a departed sibling, and it’s not a possession in like a traditional sense, is it? She’s recreating Sab in herself, and like making space for Sab in herself as a way of processing that absence. But it’s like being possessed by an imagined person, which I thought was such a cool idea, and also such a really good way of showing how somebody is not at all dealing with loss, or dealing very badly with that, and is being permanently haunted by somebody.

But also, the very – almost negative relationship that they have?

SP: It’s a very bad relationship, yeah.

CMR: Very bad, very toxic relationship that they have as siblings, that she then has with herself and her own body as a result of having a very toxic relationship with her sister who is within her. I thought that was like really interesting way of showing all of that. And I’m wondering if that’s something that you – so the darker side of family is something that you explore in your work a lot, and do you find that’s another area where body horror can come into play in different ways?

SP: For sure. I think… it’s a very good, intelligent question. You you you you! You really! Make me sound a lot smarter than I probably am – the way you describe things. I think – I mean, when family dynamics and body horror… Let’s just be like, not paranormal. Let’s just be regular, right? Let’s say you have something that you want to tell your parents right. And you know, like, okay, I’m queer, right? So you have feelings. You have thoughts, to have ideas. And you want to be honest about yourself, where you want to tell your family and you. You. You know your family doesn’t accept that, or you know that they’re not going to like that, or they’re going to say we don’t want you in the house or any of these things. You internalize that because you’re like, okay. I can’t say it. So I have to keep it inside. And when you keep it inside, I mean, just even on a everyday physical level. It’s stressful. it feels heavy. It’s oppressive. People get anxiety. People become depressed. People have all kinds of reactions to it.

So. Yes, I’ve I, of course, think that difficult family dynamics sort of manifest inside you, because you carry that with you, and you have emotions and feelings about it. When you’re writing it, it’s easy to sort of visualize those things as, okay, I just disappointed my mother because I didn’t watch my sister, and she has disappeared now, and so I keep hearing my sister’s voice, because I can’t forget it, because I feel guilty about it, sort of thing. So yeah, I think grief, you carry it around, I think loss, you carry it around, and I think if it’s inside you, and it makes you upset, then that’s a form of body horror.

Mental Illness Manifesting as Body Horror

CMR: Yeah. Yeah. And it’s like that physical manifestation of because that like, yeah, like as you say anxiety and depression are- those are mental illnesses that manifest in a very physical way, because they have physical – um – what’s the word?

SP: Presentations! Presentations! Yeah.

CMR: Presentations! Yeah, physical presentations, and you can have like, panic attacks, you can have–

SP: I have panic attacks all the time. And they’re terrifying. It’s horrific.

CMR: Yeah.

SP: Yeah! Sorry, you didn’t need to know that. [Laughs]

CMR: [Laughs] I’m like – yeah but exactly that. And you can just not want to get up, you can just want to hide in a small space in your bed, and you can – and that can lead to other physical issues where you don’t take care of yourself and that can exacerbate other problems, or just something as simple as, you know, depression making you put stuff off, so you don’t go see a doctor about stuff, or you just, you think, oh, you know, I deserve to have this, all these negative thoughts, oh I deserve to have this happen to me, or whatever…

SP: Yes, that you deserve punishment.

CMR: Yes, so you deliberately don’t take care of yourself, or when you have an injury or something, you just ignore it, or you don’t you know, like you don’t eat right, and you don’t like– so you can have body horror manifesting in like– So like, I talk a lot about disordered eating and body dysmorphia in my work, and generally not as body horror but as something that characters just happen to have, but that’s also like, for somebody experiencing it, when your body changes and you don’t have a very good perception of what that is like, like that can be very disorientating and very traumatic. And so, yeah, like all of those things can come into play and often like it’s as a result of like, ‘I don’t know how to deal with my family’, or like the the background of you know, when you have family who comment on certain things about your physical appearance, when you have family who you have a bad relationship with, and that causes you to be so anxious when you’re around them, that you have these coping mechanisms that don’t work, and when you can’t escape your family, you know. What do you do when you do? Or when you do escape your family and you have terrible coping mechanisms that you bring to other areas of your life, how do you manage that, and all of that kind of stuff can manifest in different different ways. So yeah, like body horror is a good way to explore that, right?

SP: Yes, and it isn’t, because sometimes words — words don’t don’t really convey exactly like I like. We’re using the word of horror, right? And I have a lot of these issues myself. I’ve been depressed. I have anxiety. I have other issues, I’m neurodiverse, and I don’t think of myself as a horror?! Like I don’t think of those things as “a horror”, but they are discomforting, and discomfort sometimes goes along with the horror genre.

CMR: Yeah. Yes. Yeah. And I think that’s — I’m also neurodiverse and queer and these different things that’s hard to sometimes process and, and it’s easier to process within a particular genre. Like you say, like horror as therapy and like, yeah, and it’s easier to kind of maybe externalize a lot of the feelings, and express them in a body horror context, because of the way everything makes you feel physically, so it’s easier to explain the physicality of the emotion –

SP: Exactly.

CMR: -and what that’s doing to you, yeah, and I feel that’s an easier way for me to kind of examine how I feel about stuff and like it sounds like that’s very similar for you. I’m not sure if that’s —

SP: Oh, that’s exactly, that’s exactly it. I’m anxious, or I’m having an issue. How do I, How do I sort of process that? Well, okay, I’m going to remove it from myself or I’m going to take, or I’m going to make it take a physical form, and I’m going to pro[cess], I’m going to work through what’s like to interact with that physical form, or with that voice or with that sound. And it’s presented in a horror way, so that I can process it. Is it horrific to feel like, is it? Is that itself a horror? I’m not sure. But I’m presenting it in a way to process it.

CMR: Yeah. yeah, that makes a lot of sense to me as well, I think.

Other Tropes in Suzan’s Work: The Gothic and Villains

CMR: And do you have any other themes and tropes that you play with as a writer apart from, you know, body horror, we’ve kind of covered a lot. Do you have any like other favourite ones? And maybe, could you give us examples from Skin Thief without too many spoilers, if you do?

SP: Okay. So this was a hard question for me, because I’ve been so obsessed with with shape shifters. So I’m like, what else do I like? Do I like anything else? I really am just obsessed generally with anything Gothic. So you know you give me even the just, the settings and the trappings of it, and everything Gothic. So you know, if there’s a castle, I love it.

I have an actual story that’s like a Phantom of the Opera retelling. [Her Voice, Unmasked in Weird Horror #1] But it is a steampunk Phantom of the Opera retelling, so it’s got like, you know you’re in a castle, and you go down to the dungeon and stuff like that. So I love the sort of mad scientist genius who creates something, and and it he realizes that he shouldn’t have created it because he’s made something that can think on feel on its own, and [it] should be its own person. So I like, I like stuff like that.

I … what else do I like. I really like villains. I really like people who are like – in “Laughter Among the Trees” she’s not a perfect person, the protagonist. She feels jealous, she’s angry, she’s upset. She is not a perfect person, and I enjoy stories [like that]. There’s a market. There’s a audience. There’s a – there’s a need for people who are like. Okay, this is a very sweet, nice person, and this is the villain dun dun dah. But what I like is, I really like a character who is a mess, and who is flawed and makes bad choices, or has feelings that people don’t usually acknowledge. I love that. That’s not a trope, but I love it. I’ve tried that in a lot of the stories to write characters who feel angry, who are resentful who who are struggling with with things because that’s how I feel. I’m not perfect. Yes, I don’t even know how to end this, this ramble about how I love villains and people who are flawed. Give me a messed up person. I’ll love them forever.

CMR: Yay, I love them, too. That’s great. That’s basically yeah, because that’s I think I basically just write antiheroes at best. And I think that’s – they’re just more interesting.

SP: Right? If someone – okay, this is my thing. If someone can get you to understand why this miserable person, why you should empathise with them, that’s magic. Like you got me to be like, okay, She – okay. So she’s jealous, and she’s upset and she’s… But I get why she’s jealous and she’s upset. I think that’s brilliant.

CMR: Yes, yeah. And I yeah, I love that. And I get why it’s easier to root for people with heroic qualities but I’ve never really related to people like that. I think it’s just like, I’m not – I’m not a hero. [Laughs]

SP: No, me neither. [Laughs]

CMR: [Laughs] I’m just a messed up person with a lot of flaws. [Laughs]

SP: Yeah, no, I I totally. I mean I love that for people who love it [the hero character type],

CMR: Yes!

SP: like if you, if you like that, yeah, go wild.

CMR: 100% Yeah.

SP: But give me the messy – like – the horrible, I’m going to be messy and petty in the corner by myself person to follow. It’s so juicy. I love it.

CMR: And there’s just so much as a writer when you’ve got that kind of character. Sometimes you’re just presented with an absolute gift of a character that you can do so much with and like. I know a lot of people go, yes, the redemption arc. I’m like No, no, no, no! Let’s just explore this. Let’s let them get a little bit worse.

SP: We don’t need to be redeemed necessarily, I mean. And when we’re talking about this, I always have a caveat that I’m: I’m not like, talking about people who do atrocities, and we want to empathize with them. I’m not talking about the people who do atrocities. I’m talking about the regular people who are like just regular people, who I have probably feel guilty for a thought they have, or feel bad about, you know, or ashamed, because, you know I didn’t feel like cheering for Bob when he won the award like that kind of person, I’m not talking about like, you know, for historical, horrid kind of people that kind of people, I don’t want to redeem them, or like, understand that, like I’m not talking about that.

CMR: Yeah, yeah, no, it’s. I just think there’s just so many more layers, aren’t there, to people.

I think – I think that’s about all we’ve got time for in terms of discussion. But I just want to, before we go, I just want to give you some space to plug anything you want that’s coming out. Tell us where to find you. Tell us where to find your book, and I’ll put all the links in the transcript as well, so that everyone can head to and you’ll find the transcript there, so you can just access all the links easily.

But yeah, this is your space plug anything you want before before we say goodbye. It’s been fantastic.

Links and Keeping Updated with Suzan Palumbo

SP: I don’t know if anyone noticed, but I have a book called Skin Thief coming out. [Laughs] Maybe you missed it in the in the discussion. But yes, my collection Skin Thief is coming out from Neon Hemlock. It is coming out at the end of September, beginning of October [2023]. It’s a short story collection. We talked about “Laughter Among the Trees” a lot – that was nominated for the Nebula, and also on the Hugo long list last year, so you can get that story in print if you buy it.

I don’t have a lot of things I’m allowed to talk about out loud. Yet.

I have several stories coming out. Another one is from Neon Hemlock. It’s in the Crawling Moon anthology. That’s queer dread. That’s what that anthology is about, so I’ll have a story coming out with them.

I will have some non fiction coming out, and in other anthologies. But I really can’t say too much, because I’m not allowed to yet. It’s very mysterious.

CMR: That’s fair.

SP: So I’ll just plug my book. Please read it when it comes out.

CMR: Yes, and review it, read and review.

SP: Honest reviews.

CMR: But yeah, that that helps it get noticed and shared more widely and that’s what we want. Yeah, I can’t wait. I’m really excited.

SP: So excited you’re excited!


CMR: It’s been fantastic talking to you, it’s been really interesting to chat about body horror, folklore, all that juicy villainous stuff. Look forward to anything else that you’re writing because I’m really excited to read a little bit more.

SP: I do have a novella coming out next year, in 2024.

CMR: Ooh, ok!

SP: But it’s a Space Opera.

CMR: Yes!

SP: It’s a Space Opera, it’s not – there’s no body horror in it. Okay, maybe a tiny bit.

CMR: Okay.

SP: I put a tiny bit.


CMR: Okay, I was like, I don’t believe you.

SP: Okay, maybe there are some vultures, but mostly it’s just spaceships.

CMR: I’m so exci– okay what’s that called, are you allowed to say?

SP: It’s called Countess. It’s a retelling of Count of Monte Cristo in space.

CMR: Oh, my God! Okay, that sounds amazing. Yes.

SP: I love Count of Monte Cristo.

CMR: That’s yeah, he’s. He’s like the ultimate antihero, isn’t he? Okay so Countess, and it’s –

SP: 2024.

CMR: – 2024 novella. I’ll be on the lookout for that. And that is all we’ve got time for. So thank you so much, Suzan, for being on the podcast. It’s been brilliant to have you and good luck with everything that you’ve got going on! So much stuff going on.

SP: Thank you for having me. This has been so fun, you’re so wonderful.

CMR: Aw thank you! Hopefully, maybe you’ll come back for the next season.

SP: Oh definitely!

CMR: Yay! Grand. Maybe we’ll see you again soon. Take care, and bye for now.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s