An interview with World Fantasy Lifetime Achievement Winner Chelsea Quinn Yarbro
Posted November 20, 2014on:
The World Fantasy Convention was held earlier this month, and Chelsea Quinn Yarbro was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award. Her name will be familiar to fans of historical fiction, as she’s the author behind the famous Saint-Germain Cycle. The first novel in the Cycle, Hotel Transylvania, was published in 1978, and there are now over 25 volumes. She’s written over 80 books, and over 70 works of short fiction. No stranger to awards either, she’s received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Horror Writers Association, the Grand Master award from the World Horror Association, and she was the first woman to be enrolled as a Living Legend of the International Horror Guild.
Chelsea was kind enough to take a few minutes out of her busy day to answer a few of my questions on her famous series, music, and the occult. Wanna learn more about this amazing author? I do! let’s go!
LRR: Your bio briefly mentions you are also a musical composer. Could you tell us a little more about this? Personally, I believe there are a lot of connections between music and other means of communication. Have you found any similarities between writing music and writing fiction?
CQY: There are many things that cannot be said with words, and it seems to me that’s where music comes in. When I get worded – out, I do music to deal with all the things that words cannot express. Words and music are powerful communicators, but they communicate different kinds of things. So while composition and writing are at the opposite end of the communication scale, they serve the same basic purpose. At least that’s my opinion.
LRR: You’ve written more than eighty novels and more than seventy short stories in your career. Which genres are the most enjoyable for you to write? Of all the characters you have created, do any stand out as your favorites?
CQY: Whatever story, theme, or genre I’m presently working on is my favorite while I’m doing it. Though I find Westerns the most fun to develop.
The same goes for characters: Whatever I’m working on at the time, the people of that story are my favorites.
LRR: The first three books in your famous Saint-Germain Cycle (Hotel Transylvania, The Palace, and Blood Games) are now available as ebooks. What do you think about a whole new generation of readers (re)discovering these 30-year-old stories?
CQY: I’m delighted to have new readers, no matter how that happens—unless it is through pirate sites, and then I don’t like it at all. Writing is how I earn my living, and it is my job. The more readers I have, the more rent and cat food I can afford.
LRR: You’ve been writing steadily since the mid-60s. What changes (such as story style, reader expectations, or publisher expectations) have you seen in the horror genre during your career?
CQY: There are waves in genre popularity, in all genres. In horror, for example, the 90s saw a fashion in graphically violent splatter-punk, but it faded. No doubt it will return again, as will the Gothic fashion, which is beginning to show up again.
It’s not so much that the audience changes, but I think editors get tired of the same-old same-old and look for something different. The Internet has blunted this a little, but readers, too, can become saturated with a genre or a sub-genre, and look elsewhere until the wave changes within their own tastes.
LRR: Your bio also mentioned you are a “skeptical occultist,” which leads me to two questions: What does a skeptical occultist do? And has this assisted with any of the research for your novels?
CQY: Occult studies have interested me since I was a kid, and I’ve read up on them for decades and continue to do so, but I always question what I read, and that tends to keep me away from being too credulous about many claims made by occultist. On the other hand, I’ve read tarot cards and palms professionally, and have belonged to a channeling group, so I don’t discount occult practices entirely. There is some truly dreadful writing done in the name of occult studies, but all of it shines a little light on our very sketchy sense of the ineffable.
LRR: You were recently the Guest of Honor at Conjecture/ConChord 26 and you are scheduled to be a Guest of Honor at the 2015 World Fantasy Convention. What do you enjoy most about attending events like these?
CQY: Going to conventions is a great way to catch up with old friends and make a few new ones, to meet with editors on neutral territory, to meet some of my readers, and to keep up with the gossip. Conventions are usually fun, and it is a nice break in my usual routine. It makes good business sense to talk about new projects and reprints with an interested and receptive audience.
And getting awards is very nice, indeed.