An Interview with Liz Strange
By Derek Newman-Stille
I met Liz Strange at Can Con in Ottawa, a conference on Canadian Speculative
Fiction. She was part of a panel that initiated a great discussion about representations of Queer or LGBTQ2 people. After hearing her speak, I wanted to have the opportunity to share some of her insights on Speculating Canada. Liz Strange is the author of the Dark Kiss Trilogy & Dark Kiss Tales. You can check out her website at http://www.lizstrange.com/ . I want to thank Ms. Strange for being willing to do this interview and sharing her insights with us.
Spec Can: To start the interview, could you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Liz Strange: I am single mom of four (ages 8-18), living in my hometown of Kingston, ON. By day I work at a local hospital and by night am an author of speculative fiction (fantasy, horror, mystery). I am a die-hard horror and sci-fi/fantasy fan and a complete nut about ancient history and world mythology.
Spec Can: What is the role of mythology in your work?
Liz Strange: I think mythology influences all of my writing to some degree. I am addicted to learning and researching various aspects of world mythology, cultural history and anthropology. I find it fascinating, especially the deep similarities found in ancient beliefs and schools of thought between peoples who at that time had no direct contact with one another.
Spec Can: What mythologies do you draw upon when you write?
Liz Strange: Personally, I am drawn to ancient Greek and Egyptian mythology, and to a lesser extent Roman. I am also intrigued with South American Native mythology and spiritual beliefs, such as the Mayan and Incan cultures. But I am influenced by many beliefs, whether they be defined by geographical and historical contexts, from shamanism and animism, to organized religious beliefs and customs. I can’t get enough of it.
Spec Can: How does mythology speak to the modern Canadian reader?
Liz Strange: I think we are all looking for answers. Ancient mythology and spiritual beliefs came from a need to define the world around us, to understand our humanity and our place in the ‘bigger picture”. We all want to know want life means, how we came to be, what our place in history will be.
Spec Can: Your work The Embrace of Life and Death features an angel and a vampire who are in a relationship together. Why use an angel? What can an angel bring to the story?
Liz Strange: The idea of an angel in my work came via an odd route. I watched the (not great) movie Legion, and was intrigued by the presentation of angels as these gritty, hyper-masculine ‘soldiers’, who were not above acts of extreme violence to support their cause. I took that thought away, chewed on it a while and did a massive amount of reading about angelic lore, hierarchy, mystique, etc, mainly from the Judeo-Christian vein, but also interpretations/references from other sources.
I eventually focused in on the Angel Azrael, and kept coming back to the contrast between light and dark, good and evil, and decided to bring an Angel into a story with vampires. The vampire character Kieran in The Embrace of Life and Death is actually a secondary character from my Dark Kiss Trilogy, and he had always quietly been begging for his own story.
Spec Can: What mythology of the angelic did you draw upon in your story?
Liz Strange: With the angel mythology I kept coming back to this whole idea of origins and what it meant to be human. That focus ended up being explored on a number of different levels in the story.
Spec Can: You have used queer-oriented characters in your work. What is the virtue of using queer characters?
Liz Strange: I have a strong belief that love is love, and lust is lust. We all experience attraction and appreciation for others on different levels: romantic, spiritual, physical. This is a story on one level about a same-sex romantic/sexual relationship, but is also a story about how true connection with another transcends the commonly accepted definitions/confines of sexuality and gender.
Spec Can: What can queer characters add to a story?
Liz Strange: Having a queer character can give a reader a new perspective on life and relationships, or can be something with which to identify with. It offers challenges, broader thinking, open mindedness and acceptance.
Spec Can: What is distinctly Canadian about your work? How does your Canadian identity speak through your writing?
Liz Strange: I try to set a majority of my works in Canada, or at least have a Canadian character represented. Our recognition in the world as peace keepers, progressive thinkers and top providers to our citizens is very important to me.
I am proud of my nationality and our country’s history, and come from a long line of writers, historians, politicians and educators. My maternal grandfather was Arthur R.M. Lower, who won the Order of Canada in 1968, and my relatives through my father’s family were representative in the Legislative Assembly of Canada and first elected mayor of my hometown of Kingston.
Spec Can: What drew you to write about vampires?
Liz Strange: I don’t even know where to start with that. I have always been drawn to darker fiction and film/TV and vampires in particular. Beyond the surface attraction to the ideas of immortality, strength, power, etc, I love the idea of the vampire as a physical manifestation of the darker, primal nature lurking in all humans. We are all controlled to some extent – our base emotions such a hunger, lust and fear. Under certain conditions we can all be monsters.
Spec Can: Why is the vampire so often connected to sexuality? What is sexy about the vampire?
Liz Strange: Again, it’s about giving into the base, primal core of our being, where there is no need to conform to societal, family or religious expectations, and simply go with what feels good.
Spec Can: What can the vampire reveal about our modern interest in beauty and youth?
Liz Strange: Today’s society seems to be obsessed with retaining youth and beauty above all else, no cost seems to be too great to be thinner, prettier, more fit. It’s an odd, yet unmistakable parallel to the concept of vampirism.
Spec Can: In The Embrace of Life and Death, the past is an important part of the plot of the novel. How does the figure of the vampire speak to readers about ideas of memory and the past?
Liz Strange: I think the past drives everything in the present and future, and the vampire (if they exist) could be a primary link to the past like no other sources. Imagine being able to speak with someone who has actually experienced events/conditions that we can only imagine.
I also believe that no matter what changes you may make to your person, to your living arrangement or status, you can never completely escape your origins.
Spec Can: What questions do you hope that your work inspires in readers?
Liz Strange: I like my readers to be entertained, first and foremost, but I also like to spark some interest in things they may never have thought of before. I like to intrigue, incite curiosity and challenge people to think outside their comfort zone. The world is a big place, full of wonder, mystery, beauty and misery.
Spec Can: You have mentioned in your bio that you have an interest in anthropology. How does anthropology influence your work?
Liz Strange: Bottom line I am fascinated by people: What makes them tick? Why do they believe the things they do? Commit the acts they do? Why do they love, hate, champion, condemn, judge and try to change the things they do?
Spec Can: What is romantic about the monster? Why has the monster become a sympathetic and even attractive figure?
Liz Strange: The monster is romantic and sympathetic, because it lives in all of us. Human beings are complicated, challenging, frustrating, wondrous beings, capable of many things both inspiring and horrifying.
Spec Can: Is there anything further you would like to mention to our readers?
Liz Strange: I’d just like to say thank-you to all the readers who’ve taken a chance on my works. I hope I’ve brought some enjoyment into your lives.
I want to express my thanks to Ms. Strange for this fantastic interview. She has offered some interesting insights. To find some of Liz Strange’s work and read some of her further insights, you can check out her website at http://www.lizstrange.com/