Today I am happy to have been able to talk with Kym Darkly, short story writer, short film script writer and writer of the TV pilot The Halls, I’ve love the short stories Kym posts on her blog the horrorinmyheart. Kym also does the reading of her horror stories in audio format for her page. My time with Kym was is interesting and I learned many great details about one of my favorite short story writer. Here is what Kym had to share with me when we talked.
Why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself, where are you from? What propelled you to start writing?
Hey David, great to be on your blog. I really love that. Thank you. I am from a little town in Cornwall England called Redruth. It is a cute little place that is surrounded by villages, farmland and seaside towns.
I feel blessed to have grown up there. I truly wish that I still lived there, but I haven’t found a way back yet. Cornwall is romantic with the Wild Ocean, crazy storms, cliffs and castles. It is also a mystical and mysterious place. All the folklore and wonderful magical stories I was told in childhood have stayed with me, along with frightening stories of ghosts and other supernatural happenings.
I think I’ve been intrigued by anything dark since I was little. My mother used to tell a story about me as a child. One year I was given bath salts as a Christmas present and instead of doing what most little girls would do, I created graves with them. I used little match boxes as the graves, filled them with the bath stones – a pretty purple – and tore the lids off the match boxes to use them as gravestones. On these cardboard gravestones I wrote epitaphs describing in great detail what each person died of and how sad their family and friends were. I was a weird kid. On the one hand I was extraordinarily empathic and sweet, and on the other hand I was fascinated with death, gore and tragedy.
I wrote many poems as a child, but the first thing I wrote with a clear intention was a screenplay. My mother bought me an electric typewriter and I wrote a never-ending script making my ex-boyfriend the villainous serial killer. I guess you could say that I got him out of my system and I found writing to be cathartic right off the bat. When I scanned that screenplay into a real computer program – Final Draft – it was over 400 pages long. Most screenplays don’t go over 120.
There were many other bad scripts to follow, but I kept writing and writing because I loved it. It was the only thing I wanted to do with my day. I became obsessed. Over time my abilities grew and I taught myself how to write. I didn’t read a lot of books about writing, thank God, except the late Syd Field’s book Screenplay, which is still excellent. It has a few rules, but once I wrote a number of screenplays following them, I was able to throw the rules away and just go.
How does your writing process work?
I like to fly by the seat of my pants. I like to not have any idea where this is going, or what it is even about at the start. I like to discover it. I let the characters and situations evolve however they do in the moment. I will just get an image or a sentence in my mind, or even a small idea and I’ll start with that and run with it.
I have written by planning and beating a whole document out, as in a writer’s room in TV land, but it doesn’t feel creative to me. It doesn’t feel like fun. I feel stifled and it feels like work. I know that it is necessary in that environment but it just doesn’t make my heart sing.
I don’t like being fenced in by any plot. I like the twists and turns to happen when and how they naturally unfold. I like to realize that my good guy is really my bad guy if that’s the case. It’s interesting when I write like that because I am honestly writing him as a good guy until I realize myself that he is not, so the reader is going to buy it too because that’s what I intended up until that point. So when I discover this guy has a major secret or hang-up or something previously undiscovered comes to the fore, it is a surprise for me as well. Sometimes I have to go back and change a few things because of these surprises, but I love it. It like a big puzzle and I love the problem solving. In another life I would like to have been a detective.
My ideas never come from the same place or in the same way. They can come from something someone said, from looking at a piece of art, from watching a film and picking up one minor detail that intrigues me. Something someone is wearing can strike a chord, like a pair of funky alligator shoes that don’t match their stiff power suit. What is going on there? my mind likes to ask, and a whole story unfolds. I can build a story out of anything, even just one word or image.
One novel that I am rewriting currently grew out of a blog that I had created as a character who just talked about her exploits. I realized it could make a good novel so I started to piece it together.
What is your all-time favorite horror novel, and film?
It’s hard to nail down a favorite horror novel. I think there are elements of horror in stories that are not even classified as horror. I loved The Plague by Albert Camus. I found it horrifying that people were cut off from their loved ones in neighboring towns and could only communicate what might be their last living sentiments in a very limited amount of words by telegram. How do you say goodbye and tell someone how much they mean to you in a few words? Which ones would you choose? I’m aware too that what strikes me as intriguing might not be that important to another reader, but that lack of communication led to depression and isolation in the book, which I find interesting.
Sophie’s Choice – how do you choose between your two children? Horrifying.
I loved Misery by Stephen King. It amazed me how he could keep the suspense going through an entire novel with so little to work with and in such a confined space. Brilliant. I like the darkness and mystery and rich beauty of Bradbury’s novels and I loved Clockwork Orange and Lord of The Flies.
I actually like real stories a lot. I like biographies. My favorite was of Tennessee Williams. I liked reading about how his mother was mad, how she thought she had a horse in the room with her at all times. It is also encouraging for me to see that a man whose childhood was haunted with loneliness and pain could create such wonderful art. It makes me feel better about mine. Suffering gives me empathy but also that exposure to the dark side gives me lots to work with in terms of creating darkness in fiction.
I also love true crime. I love reading about cults. I find human nature fascinating. It freaks me out to think that perfectly intelligent people can be so manipulated and controlled by a charismatic leader, even to the point of believing in spaceships and taking their own lives. This fascinates and worries me at the same time.
One of my favorite novels was 1984. I found it sad that one lover, Winston, would betray another, Julia, to save his own skin. It again is horrific. The threat of being eaten alive by rats is disgusting but what a person will do with it is intriguing, in this case saying “Do it to Julia,” to be free of that fate himself is a terrifying slap in the face for the concept of love. It is sad truly.
This is one of the reasons I always loved Joan of Arc. She was brave. She is a character I admire. I think it’s important to have both the dark and the light. I don’t always believe in happy endings, that for sure, but I love to see that some people, some characters can really rise above and come through incredibly horrific experiences and remain good people, human.
I also love to explore characters who are the antithesis of human. They fascinate me too. I love a good psychopath or sociopath. Dexter was fabulous, as was Hannibal.
I am very influenced by film. I think visually and with dialogue, although I should probably use that more in my short stories – more dialogue.
When I think about film I think Mr. Pink and Mr. White – Reservoir Dogs. I think of Dog Day Afternoon. I loved The Exorcist, Alien, Session 9, Quarantine, Boys Don’t Cry, American History X, The Descent, The Thing, American Psycho – so good – and many others. The Celebration was great – heavy – when sexual abuse come out in the open at the most inconvenient time for someone who is regarded as untouchable. Sounds like a timely theme even though it was filmed many years ago. Straw Dogs, fantastic. The Apartment, Single White Female, Lake Placid – too many to list. I love dark films.
I really love Polanski films, also Cronenberg, and I was a huge fan of the series Twin Peaks and The Kingdom by Lars Von Trier. I’m much more about story and character than effects. I can get bored really quickly if the characters are not intriguing and the story is too shallow. I just don’t see the point. It’s a waste of time.
What was the last great book you read, and what was the last book that disappointed you?
I loved On Writing by Stephen King. What a great book. I’m currently reading the Killing Floor, which I find interesting. I like the short abrupt sentences that don’t always have verbs. It makes sense. Gets to the point. Man’s Search For Meaning was fantastic and again not a horror book, and not fiction either, but the elements of horror are there and the story is inspiring because of the will of some to rise above that horror and do the right thing, despite the most deplorable conditions. That is what some people are made of, that incredible human spirit, and that is what some characters can be made of too.
Books that disappoint me I don’t finish. In screenwriting you learn to capture your audience in ten pages. That’s all you’ve got. And it makes sense. There is so much attention grabbing material in the world and people are easily distracted with their cell phones and Facebook and a huge amount of better books they could be reading. I like material that goes for the jugular as soon as possible. If it doesn’t, I lose interest pretty fast and I put it down. Life is certainly too short and our time is too important. I find anything too shallow disappointing, which doesn’t mean simple. Simple can be very powerful, but shallow – no thanks.
What do you like to do when you aren’t writing? How does that infuse your work?
I meditate. I read spiritual books. I’m intrigued by whether or not we will be saved and if it is up to us if or if there truly is help if we ask for it. I take a lot of photos. I like to see a lot of film. I have a puppy and we take long walks and he plays with other dogs. I love observing them because they are so different from us. I love their honesty. I love the way they connect or let each other know to buzz off. They fascinate me especially when I get to observe their owners.
I was in the park last night with a whole bunch of dogs and owners. The dogs were having a ball, literally, and the owners were pretty interesting, but there was one guy who texted the whole time and ignored all other humans. That’s the guy I’ll go home and write about, because a story will come to me about him. How many heads does he have in his fridge, I’ll wonder. How many are ex girlfriends? But he loves dogs and that makes him interesting. Maybe they are his only connection to anything good.
I think everything bleeds into my work. I am re-writing a novel right now that could not have been written if I didn’t work in a place from Hell. I guess I used the experience to create something. It’s a dark comedy, which is not what I usually write, but it has been fun.
Is there one subject you would never write about as an author? What is it?
Possibly. I hated 8mm, the film. So distasteful, but then again I loved Kissed – a Canadian film about a female necrophiliac embalmer – Brilliant. I guess the latter was written and filmed with more elegance. I don’t know. I don’t like reading erotica so I’ll probably never write that. I don’t ever see myself writing details about animal torture or child torture or rape. But I might suggest something of that nature in order to give the reader an idea of what a twisted nut I’m writing about and why we should be afraid of him or her, why we’d want to see them taken out.
What piece of your own work are you most proud of?
I guess I am proud of a little short film script I wrote called A Perfect Day. I think it is vicious and heartbreaking. I also really like my TV pilot The Halls, which I have yet to pitch. I love the characters and I love the idea behind the series.
What book are you reading now?
Truthfully I am always reading several books at time. I am reading Lee Child’s The Killing Floor, Ceasar Milan’s book on puppy training, the Reboot with Joe Juice Diet, Money, Master The Game by Tony Robbins, and I frequently re-read books like Ruling your World by Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche or A Maryanne Williamson book. I also like to read short stories a lot. I think they are important. Right now I am going back and forth between Stephen King and Ray Bradbury.
I also listen to authors talk a lot. It keeps my motivation high. I find them on YouTube and I listen to them all the time. Some of my favorites are from Ray Bradbury and Stephen King. It’s important for me to hear that anything is possible. This is how I live my life and I like to hear people back that up with their stories.
Growing up which writers were your favorites and who had the greatest effect on you?
I loved Enid Blyton. She was a British writer. She wrote kids books. My favorite of hers was called The Naughtiest Girl In The School. Things haven’t changed much. I also loved The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. I could feel myself in the book walking through that land on the other side of the closet. I was a character in the book that hadn’t been written in. I was just there. And I really loved Macbeth. Even though I was young I always imagined playing Lady Macbeth. I could feel the guilt and horror, the incessant preoccupation with having blood on her hands – the terrible guilt and anguish.
Thanks for taking the time and I’m thrilled you asked me to interview you!.
I have put short stories on hold for a little while even though I love writing them. I am completing this novel r-write for now as it needs a lot of focus, and then I may also go back and rewrite another novel I have in a drawer, and a polish up a few novellas that are just first drafts still. I’m hoping to start publishing those in the not too distant future.
Thank you again, David. It’s been a pleasure.