Midnight Echo #15 Showcase: Nikky Lee
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 Nikky Lee. Welcome Nikky!
Who are you and where do you write from?
I’m a born and raised West Australian who followed her heart across the Tasman to Auckland, New Zealand. While I have a writing den, most of my writing is done on the couch where my cat and laptop compete for space.
Writing became a passion for me at the age of thirteen when I drew a picture of a character and found myself inventing a story for them in my head. Eventually that story became too big to contain and I had to write it down. That was my first manuscript. It was a train wreck, but it ignited a passion for storytelling I’d never had before. So much so, I pursued that passion into university and then into a career as a professional content writer.
Please comment on your involvement in the AHWA and its importance to you.
I’m still relatively new to writing horror and I’ve only recently joined the AHWA. For a long time I didn’t consider myself a “true” horror author, I didn’t think the stories I wrote were dark enough or scary enough. I’ve come to realise horror is often a (sadly) misunderstood genre that frequently overlaps many other genres—fantasy, scifi, paranormal, and thriller in particular. The more I read of it, the more I realise how much other genres lean on its elements. Joining the AHWA offered a way to keep exploring the genre and what it has to offer.
Why does the short story format appeal to you?
Two reasons. The first is it’s a quick reward. I get the same satisfaction of typing THE END on a short story as a novel, but in a fraction of the time. My brain loves that dopamine and endorphin hit.
The second is that the short story format is great for experimenting. It lets me play with voice, tone and craft on a small scale and practice the craft elements I’m weak at. Several of my short stories came about because I challenged myself to develop rounded characters in a small amount of space or to try writing in different tenses and point of view. Thanks to short stories, I’ve recently discovered I LOVE writing in present tense, it’s very addictive.
Can you tell us what inspired your contribution to Midnight Echo #15?
In truth, it was a bit of an impulse submission. I’ve known about Midnight Echo for years having seen it regularly feature on award lists but I didn’t think I’d actually get in! The day before the deadline I thought ‘what the heck’, dusted off a trunked story that had amassed a small pile of rejections and submitted it. Turned out Lee loved it! Goes to show how much tastes can differ!
As for the story itself, it was originally written for a “Do not go quietly” themed submission call. The core idea that sparked it off was the concept of a corpse that kept coming back from the dead to finish her unfinished business. Everything else evolved from there.
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?
I think horror is an excellent medium for shining a light on the darker side of human nature and our struggle to come to grips with it—sometimes successfully, sometimes not. Horror is perhaps more relevant now than it has ever been; it highlights the ugly sides of society, shows the rot beneath the flowers so to speak. However, I also think it should be approached with more consideration than usual. Today, we’re less able to retreat to the safety of the real. For me, COVID-19 shattered my sense of safety; horror became reality and to preserve my mental health I had to step back from dark fiction for those initial weeks of upheaval.
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?
This is like asking a parent to choose a favourite child. I think I’d cheat and buy digital copies of all my books and store it on a tablet (or three!) on my nightstand.
But, if I limit myself to only my 2020 reads (and even this is hard):
● Darkdawn by Jay Kristoff
● Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir
● Strange the Dreamer by Lani Taylor.
That all said, you can peel my paperback collection out of my cold dead fingers. They will never be Marie Kondo’ed.
Poe, Straub, King & Co aside, can you name any lesser known but deserving writers of horror fiction whose work has resonated for you recently?
My entrance into horror and dark fantasy started with Japanese manga and anime. I read and watched it voraciously through my teens and twenties, so titles such as Berserk and Gantz, Battle Royal, Deadman Wonderland and Perfect Blue hold a special place in my heart.
On the literature side, I’ve enjoyed Horns by Joe Hill, Dolly by Susan Hill and, most recently, the Rigor Morbid anthology edited by Sandra Ruttan.
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?
Wait, we’re getting print and digital? Awesome! How did I miss that? These days I’m so used to it being digital only. Print is an added bonus at this point! I’ll definitely be ordering a copy, there’s always a special thrill seeing your words on actual paper.
What are you working on right now?
Currently, I’m editing the first novel of my upcoming trilogy, while also drafting book two and dreaming about book three. In between that I’m working on a series of short stories for Deadset Press’s zodiac anthology series.
Nikky grew up as a barefoot 90s child in Perth, Western Australia, before moving to New Zealand in 2016. By day she works as a professional content writer and by night authors speculative fiction, often burning the candle at both ends to explore fantastic worlds, mine asteroids and meet wizards. Her creative work has appeared in magazines, on radio, and in anthologies around the world. Her debut novel, The Rarkyn’s Familiar—a dark tale of a girl bonded to a monster—is due to be published by Parliament House Press in 2022.