Interview: Joan De La Haye

Today we’re happy to welcome Joan De La Haye to AK&AQ. We recently reviewed her novel Requiem in E Sharp.  Joan De La Haye writes horror and some very twisted thrillers. She invariably wakes up in the middle of the night, because she’s figured out yet another freaky way to mess with her already screwed up characters. Joan is interested in some seriously weird shit. That’s probably also one of the reasons she writes horror. Joan is deep, dark and seriously twisted and so is her writing. Her novels, Shadows and Requiem in E Sharp, as well as her novella, Oasis, are published by Fox Spirit.
Q: What do you write on? Computer, pad o’ paper, battered Underwood? Give us a vivid picture.

A: I write on an Asus laptop with a shiny black cover. It even has facial recognition software which always gives me a bit of a kick when it starts up and I just have to sit in front of it and it starts up. I love it!

Q: Do you listen to music while you write? Does it influence what you write?

A: I listen to the radio or have a playlist going. My playlist has a lot ACDC, Guns-n-Roses and some other really good rock. I’ve found that I’m my writing has a little more punch with the playlist than with the radio.

Q: Do you write in short bursts or carve out long periods of time to work? Is it a habit or a vice?

A: I’m probably not the most prolific writer. I’m rather chuffed with myself if I manage more than 500 words in a day. I’ve also been known to go through periods that can last for weeks where I don’t write a single word. But apparently I’m rather grumpy during those periods and when I start writing again I’m much easier to be around.

Q: What writer would you most want to read your work? What would you want to hear them say?

A: I think I’d love to have Clive Barker read my work. I’d want him to be honest. I won’t improve and learn as a writer if I don’t receive honest criticism. That being said, I’d probably be completely devastated if he hated my work. But then I’d suck it up, wipe away the tears and get back to work.

Q: On the days where the writing doesn’t go so well, what other art or career do you fantasize about pursuing instead?

A: I studied fine art and clinical hypnotherapy. I’ve worked in all sorts of industries, including the hotel industry and I can honestly say that I wouldn’t want to do anything other than write. Even when I’ve had a bad review or had a story rejected I know that this is where I belong.

Q: What do you read? What do you re-read?

A: I read across a wide variety of genres. I read horror, thrillers, classics. But I avoid romance and biographies like the plague. I’ll read non-fiction for research purposes. The books that I love and read over and over again are classics like The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas and Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.

Q: Where did the idea for Requiem in E Sharp come from? Do you have a surefire way of sparking inspiration?

A: I have no idea where the idea for Requiem came from. I was just driving along one day, minding my own business when the idea for a serial killer with serious mommy issues popped into my head. The story took on a life of its own and grew from there.
I don’t think there is a surefire way of sparking inspiration. I get ideas from my nightmares or from something I watch on TV or hear on the news. Sometimes a simple what if question will just pop into my head. I’ve even had inspiration strike while in the shower, washing my hair. Inspiration can be fickle. But when it strikes you have to ride the wave until it crashes.

You can find Joan online at Twitter, Amazon and Goodreads. Here’s an excerpt from Requiem in E Sharp:

 

He pulled the wire out of his pocket, savouring every second. He felt himself rushing the moment. He wanted to slow it down and enjoy every detail. But she would turn around any moment and things would get messy. He didn’t want that to happen again. He wrapped the ends around his hands and pulled it taut.

He watched the back of her head bob up and down as she made the coffee, humming happily. The kettle was too loud. Her humming was out of tune and pulled his last nerve. She chatted about how rare it was to come across someone as polite as he was, but all he could hear was the sound of the piano clanging in his head. He crossed his wrists and slipped the wire over her head and pulled it around her throat. His heart lurched and the beat quickened. The excitement of the impending kill made him a little light-headed. A surprised groan escaped from her mouth. She tried to grab the wire, but her chewed fingernails were too short to dig in. She tried to grasp his gloved hands at the back of her head, but she was too slow. Her arms flailed around trying to hit him. Her foot connected with his shin. That would leave a bruise, he thought. He pulled the wire tighter. Its sharp edges cut into her flesh, slicing into her like a hot knife through butter. Her breath came in gasps; the more she struggled for breath the bigger and harder his erection grew. His breathing became harder and faster. The wire was swallowed up by her larynx. Blood ran down the front of her clothes. Her end was very close now, he could feel it. It was about time too. His muscles were killing him.

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Out Today: Oasis (Zombie Novella)

Oasis by Joan De La Haye

Joan De La Haye’s dark zombie novella ‘Oasis’ out from Fox Spirit Books

Cover art by Tom England

2013 – The planet has been fried by solar flares turning it into a desert. The surviving population has been affected by solar radiation, turning them into Zombies. Only a handful of people remain unaffected. A family of civilians, guided by a crack army unit who has seen more action than they can handle, must make their way to the safety of a UN base at the South Pole called New Atlantis.

But can they make it to this oasis alive or will they only reach it as the undead?

 

Here’s an excerpt:

1

The shelter was completed just in time. The President gave his goodbye speech and told us to save ourselves, if we could. Tears streamed down my face as we took our most prized possessions, our pets, some plants, books to read, the usual gumf, and locked ourselves in the bunker. It was cramped, to say the least, but we were alive.

Small, uncomfortable bunk beds lined the walls. There was an open plan kitchen and dining room area. There was even a TV and DVD player, with a collection of all our favourite movies. The bathroom was specially designed to recycle the water. Our air supply was filtered and recycled. My parents had gone all out and spent their life savings building it. Money wasn’t really something we would need to worry about with the world ending and all.

We stayed down there for over a year. It’s amazing how irritating someone’s habits can get in a small confined space. There was many an occasion where I would happily have throttled every member of my family. It was basically like living in a very small prison with my immediate family. Being the only single person with a couple of twosomes can also add to the frustration, if you get my drift. Cleaning up dog shit every day is also not much fun. On the plus side, my brother and his wife were expecting their first child when we went in. Even with all the death and destruction going on above us, life was growing and flourishing in our little safe haven underground.

By the end of a year our supplies were dwindling and if we didn’t want to starve, we would have to venture out and forage topside. The risks we would have to face outside the safety of our shelter were diminished by the thought of slowly starving to death. We’d seen too many movies about cannibalism. It never ended well for anybody concerned.

Climbing out of the tunnel that led to the outside world was nerve wracking. We didn’t know what to expect. We’d had no contact with the outside world, no crackling radio signals, no emergency beacon. All we had were our over active imaginations. We hoped that we’d find the world as we’d left it. That we’d been the targets of an elaborate hoax and that the year we’d spent down there in our hole had been a waste of time.

What we discovered was far worse than any of us had imagined.

Our house or what was left of it was little more than a burnt out shell. There wasn’t much left of our small neighbourhood. There were no trees lining the streets, no grass, no flowers, just ash and sand. A desert had claimed our once lush, green garden. From the top of the hill, where the Botanical Gardens had been, I could see what was left of our once beautiful capital city, Pretoria, and as I looked around at the ruins, I realised that my apartment was gone. All my furniture and belongings were gone and most of the people I’d known were now dead. Most hadn’t been buried, there hadn’t been much left to bury or anyone to bury them. Most of the bodies had been incinerated, but those that hadn’t had been left to be bleached by the never ending blaze of the sun and eventually turned to dust, blown away by the relentless wind.

We decided to stick close to the safety of our bunker and venture out in concentric rings for foraging purposes. We found a few tins of food at the small supermarket that had once been just up the road, but was now a few sand dunes away. The store had, by some miracle, survived the initial solar flares. Sand was blown in by the wind, over the few standing walls and through every open gap it could find. We dug through the sand to find shelves and fridges and ice boxes. We’d shopped there since I was a little girl and seeing its walls broken down and burnt, broke something in me. I screamed and howled like a woman whose only child had died. It was the first time I’d allowed myself to get hysterical.

“It’s okay. Let it out,” James said. His arms hugged me tight as I pounded into his chest with my fists.

“It’s not okay,” I screamed. “It’s never going to be okay.” Sobs shuddered through my body as I tried to calm down. “We might be the last people on the planet. Do you realise that?”

“Yes, I’ve thought about it,” James said, as he pushed me out at arm’s length and looked down at me from his 6ft 3inches height. “But I can’t let that get to me. We’ve got to stay strong. We’ve got to think about little Steve and,” he paused, unable to look me in the eye. “Mary’s pregnant again.” The revelation was a shock. “We have to keep it together for them. I need you to help me. Can you do that Maxine?”

I nodded. He only ever called me Maxine when he was being serious. This wasn’t a time for self-pity or weakness. This was a time to grow up and be tough. Time to be a survivor and put on my big girl pants.

“Have you told Mom and Dad she’s pregnant?” I looked up, squinting so I could see his face and not get blinded by the sun. He shook his head.

“We’re waiting for the right time. We don’t want to worry them.”

“But it’s another life. It’s something that should be celebrated,” I said, trying to sound as happy as I could. I was happy, but I was also worried about Mary. Stevie’s birth hadn’t been easy. James was a paramedic in the old world, before all of this and his medical training came in handy, but he wasn’t a doctor and we didn’t have all the medical supplies necessary for a safe delivery. We didn’t have any prenatal vitamins for Mary to take. There was no way to know if the baby would be healthy. I tried not to focus on all the things that could go wrong. We had to accentuate the positive, even if there wasn’t all that much to be positive about. We were alive and that had to count for something, right?

Carting back the few supplies we’d found at the store, James and I trudged up and down sand dunes in silence. We each had our own morbid thoughts to deal with. Being a survivor was hard work.

I’d once thought that having a day job and a career was hard, but going to work and dealing with clients and an annoying boss was easy in comparison. I longed for the normal days when the only thing I had to worry about was which outfit I’d wear or if I’d worked hard enough for my clients or if a guy in the building liked me. No amount of therapy or training could have prepared me for this.

“Look at what I found,” My mother stood next to our old Weber barbecue, looking rather proud of herself, as James and I walked through what had been our garden gate, but was now little more than twisted metal that still hung from a piece of burnt concrete. She must have found it lying somewhere in the sand. Her white, long, cotton dress flapped in the breeze.

“Where’d you find that?” James asked with a grin and touched the Weber as though it were some ancient relic worth a fortune in gold.

“It was across the road …” She frowned. “Well … you know what I mean,” she said, as she gestured in the general direction of where the house across the road had been. “How it got there, I don’t know.”

“Are you sure it’s ours?” I asked walking towards her and giving her a quick hug and a peck on the cheek.

“Does it really matter whose it is?” James asked, looking at me with a sad, lost look in his eyes.

“Guess not.” The thought of the old couple who’d once lived across the road not needing their barbecue anymore threatened my resolve to be strong. My mother put her arms around me and hugged me tight. The softness of her body against mine was comforting. I was grateful to be alive and that I wasn’t completely alone. We had each other. Our family was still intact and in that there was hope. Perhaps there were other families out there going through the same thing, thinking that they were the only ones. And maybe, just maybe, by some miracle we would find each other and be able to rebuild together. Stupid and naive, I know, but a girl can dream. Can’t she?

Review: Requiem in E Sharp

Requiem in E Sharp by Joan De La Haye (Fox Spirit Books)

Blurb: Sundays in Pretoria are dangerous for selected women.

A murderer plagued by his childhood, has found a distinctive modus operandi to salve his pathological need to escape the domination of the person who was supposed to cherish him.

As The Bathroom Strangler’s frenzy escalates and the body count mounts, Nico van Staaden, the lead detective on the case, finds himself confronting his own demons as he struggles to solve the murders of the seemingly unconnected victims. The lack of evidence in the sequence of deaths and pressure from his superiors are challenges he must overcome.

Review: In Requiem in E Sharp De La Haye offers up a chilling look not only at a hate-filled serial killer but at the grim world of modern South Africa. In her novel we glimpse a Pretoria that’s filled with random violence, police corruption and internecine mistrust between racial groups. The book is dedicated to her brother Johan, “who survived 17 bullets.” Against this backdrop a serial killer finds it easy to get away with a string of violent deaths for some time before the police put together the clues — and then elude capture when the lead detective finds himself hampered at every turn by incompetence and outright hostility from his colleagues. Add to the mix his new relationship with Janet, a strikingly beautiful woman but one who’s also wrapped up in her recently suicidal friend Natalie and her often overbearing partner Louis. The women want the guys to get along, the better to patch over the strains of their past. De La Haye offers up a story of twists and psychological turns that will keep you entertained.

~ K. A. Laity