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  • Writer's pictureLee Murray

Midnight Echo #15 Showcase: Alissa Smith

In the seminal novel that launched a genre, Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley wrote, “There is something at work in my soul, which I do not understand.” With this single sentence, Shelley cuts at the reason that so many of us embrace dark fiction. And it is with this notion in mind that I am showcasing some of the dark souls who contributed their twisted and chilling creations to the 2020 edition of the AHWA's annual magazine Midnight Echo. Today, my guest is Alissa Smith. Welcome!

Who are you and where do you write from?

My name is Alissa and I live in Auckland, New Zealand, where I also grew up. I'm a freelance graphic designer and I teach yoga classes. Writing is something I have always enjoyed as a creative outlet, but I'm now giving it more time and attention with the ambition of becoming a career writer. Whenever I write I'm accompanied by my black cat, Raven, who is always beside me, on me, distracting or obstructing me.

Can you tell us about your experience of the AHWA?

I came across the Australasian Horror Writers Association on Facebook when they were inviting submissions to the short story / flash fiction competition. I thought: Why not try writing horror? An idea immediately sprung to mind so I wrote it down on the spot and developed it into a story. I submitted it the same week without hesitation to prevent any self-doubt creeping in. I was surprised, delighted, and a little amused when I found out that my twisted tale, "Little Spoon," had won in its category!

Why does flash fiction appeal to you? Flash fiction appeals to me because, like many other pursuits, simplicity is key. There's no world-building or elaborate character development. It's a snapshot of a moment, a confined space, a simple idea or feeling that is delivered with a punch. The art of flash fiction in the horror genre is to convey a sense of dread or shock the reader with a few well-chosen words. Why did you have to be so dark? 2020 has had its share of darkness. Do you think horror is more or less important in these very turbulent times?

Why so dark? Well, I believe that duality is important. We can enjoy many things, even if they seem at odds with each other. That's what creates the rich tapestry of our character. The yin and the yang; the spark of light in the dark and darkness in the light. Horror serves a purpose, in the same way that humour can be an antidote to our troubles. Just as comedy makes us laugh, horror delivers thrills, suspense and tension that gets our pulses racing. While real-life suffering in the world can be hard to bear, fictional horror in books, stories, movies, theme parks and video games provides entertainment in a controlled environment. Often, these fictional horrors come to some kind of resolution and we are able to control how much attention we give to the source. Don’t like where it’s going? Shut it down, turn it off, walk away. We can reason that it wasn’t real life anyway. I enjoy reading fiction as a form of escapism, so I find that horror can be thrilling, intriguing and a welcome diversion. The Marie Kondo challenge: in an effort to de-clutter, you’re only allowed to keep three books on your nightstand. Which three would you choose and why?

If I had to pick three books (or collections) for my nightstand, they would be: The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho; The Stand by Stephen King; The Collected Short Stories of Roald Dahl. Poe, Straub, King & Co aside, can you name any lesser known but deserving writers of horror fiction whose work has resonated for you recently?

An underrated or perhaps overlooked writer of the macabre was the great Roald Dahl. I've always been a big fan of his children's books, but his (strictly) adult short stories are dark, sinister and delightfully twisted! Midnight Echo #15 is being offered in both print and ebook versions this year. Did the offer of print make a difference to you? Are you seduced by the waft of vanilla and printer’s ink?

I'm excited that Midnight Echo will be produced in print because I believe books and stories are meant to be shared. I read ebooks from time to time but mostly printed books. There's no substitute for the page-turning, paper-sniffing, spine-cracking, bookmark-inserting experience. But I don't hang on to books for long – I love to recommend them to friends and fellow readers.

What are you working on right now?

My current project is writing my first novel! I'm at the editing stage, which has been the most challenging part so far. My book set in 1960s-1980s New Zealand, following a young man's journey to building an entertainment enterprise and figuring life out along the way. It doesn't fall anywhere near the horror genre, so I get my fix by writing short twisted tales in between times!

ALISSA SMITH has been an enthusiastic reader and passionate writer from a very young age. Throughout her childhood, she was happiest with her nose buried in a book. From Roald Dahl to Stephen King, she is fascinated by the art of imaginative storytelling. Based in Auckland, New Zealand, Alissa is currently editing her first fiction novel and writing twisted tales.


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