I had an opportunity to talk with writer Elizabeth Stinson. When you read her interview below, you’ll see some Steven King similarities. Dreams being a muse for story telling; real life accounts. This is an interview you won’t want to miss…
Sometimes I watched to see if someone was coming out the bedroom door. I hated to be in that room if just to get my clothes from the dresser or go through to the kitchenette.
How long have you been writing?
Since about fifth grade with a couple of two-page mysteries inspired by TV crime shows, girl detective novels, and kid comics. Unless mice got to them, I still have “The Cold Corpse” and “The Mystery of the Torn Will” in smeared pencil on notebook paper with crayon drawings of a blood-dripping knife and a, wait for it, torn will. Great set-ups and flashy endings, but the second acts are weak. Then I read a lot of science-fiction and super-hero comics that helped build my “universe.”
What genre do you write most often?
When I got into science fiction, I created the usual powerful loner heroine who eventually morphed into a witch with a sci-fi twist. Most of my screenplays are in a lengthy planned series about her life, loves, family, friends, and adventures in numerous supernatural sub-genres. She’s closer to a comic book heroine than a Wiccan, though she respects the traditions. She keeps saying she’s not psychic, but she gets dreams sometimes. Throughout the series, she has two main motivations, finding her true love in a past time and understanding the mystery of her existence.
I also have a PG super-heroine screenplay about a schlubby young woman who suddenly gets a power she’s wanted all her life – for reasons that are revealed – and soon realizes public knowledge of it would threaten her life and liberty. So what can she do with it?
Sounds like a perfect TV show Elizabeth!
The “princess stories” are about several women in the same small area of eastern Europe during a span of thousands of years and different genres – sword and sorcery, gothic romance, contemporary Cinderella, and science fiction.
A romantic ghost story about a ballerina in Charleston, SC, is in memory of my mother.
And I’m trying to write a thriller with no supernatural element but sort of Twilight Zone-y.
What have you written about so far in your screenplays?
The superheroine story. The rest are in the witch’s series. The origin novel when she becomes involved with the occult through a family of teen witchlings. A “sidequel” about a young woman haunted by the death of her sister. A backwoods horror/action. A murder mystery/time travel/ghost story when she goes to her parents’ hometown. A Lovecraftian short story, very dark, but it has to be to make her change course.
What makes you use personal experiences?
Waste not, want not! There’s an old song called “Master Jack” with the lines, “You took a colored ribbon from out of the sky / And taught me how to use it as the years went by / To tie up all your problems and make them look neat / And then to sell them to the people in the street.” I think that’s a good look at how writers work, using personal experiences and feelings, bringing them out in the open, taking control of them, dressing them up. It’s cheaper than therapy.
Why do you add scary aspects to your screenplays? What draws you to the dark side?
It’s not so much adding scary aspects, they’re entwined with whatever the story is. For example, the contemporary Cinderella story has murders, war, a ghost, secrets, and scandal, all realistic to the situation. The poor girl goes through a lot to get to her shot at a happy ending.
It’s just the way my mind works. I love my weird dreams. Some of my favorites are when I visit haunted places. Usually, the first time I visit a particular house, I’m really scared but I look around anyway. Then in later dreams, I try to go back and visit the same house again and again, until it’s not so scary anymore. I don’t know what this means, unless I’m working through a fear. And I like big old houses with character.
Have you always been fascinated with scary, strange happenings?
Looks like it! They make good reading and viewing, but my real life is nothing like that. The following two anecdotes are probably as close as I’ve come to weirdness, but what do they really mean?
In a previous millennium, I lived at the YWCA in Raleigh, NC, and worked at NCSU. I wanted a place of my own but one not very expensive. I answered an ad in the newspaper and visited an old house near the campus with two apartments on the first floor and two on the second. The rent for the vacant one upstairs was $80 per month. There were two rooms plus kitchenette and bathroom. The landlady was there with painters working in the small bedroom, putting beige paint over old browned, patterned wallpaper. For some reason, I didn’t like that bedroom AT ALL! After I moved in, I put my bed in a corner in the living room as far away from the bedroom as possible. Sometimes I watched to see if someone was coming out the bedroom door. I hated to be in that room if just to get my clothes from the dresser or go through to the kitchenette. The painters left their paint cans on the porch roof outside the bedroom window, and after some months, I crawled out to get them and put them with the trash out back. I wondered why they left them. When I cleaned up the kitchenette, I found something on a top shelf, a long, white jeweler’s gift box with two pieces of sterling flatware in the same pattern — a wedding gift, probably. I still have them if the rightful owners can identify them. I never did ask the landlady if the bedroom was haunted or research if something had happened there, and I hesitate to approach the current owner.
So I added these facts to one of my stories about the above-mentioned witch heroine. After she gets married and moves into that apartment, she learns that the previous couple was slaughtered in their bedroom. The landlady had the bloody wallpaper painted over, but the painters were scared away.
I moved out of that apartment after 16 months and traveled to London. I lived in a fourth-floor walk-up flat with four other girls, two English and two Irish, and slept on a cot in a small room with one of the English girls. Instead of regular sheets, I used a sleeping bag liner made out of thin cottony material and put a blanket over it. One night I dreamed I came back from somewhere via the one window in the room. I was with a person I called a “light being,” male, tall and maybe blond. i was supposed to get back in bed, but I lay down on top of the liner instead of getting inside. He pointed this out, and I said I’d be warm enough. Well, next morning, I woke up on top of the liner — and I was terrified of knives! Was that a UFO abduction or a dream? Had I gone to sleep on top of the liner?
What if you find out you were really abducted? How would your life change?
That would be both cool – I might have an alien hybrid child! — and a cause for concern, having proof aliens are interested in Earth. I don’t really know, but I doubt it.
Do you have any plans in the future to write for the paranormal/horror genre?
Of course! The witch series uses this in every story to various degrees, and the princess gothic romance is very dark. There’s also a popular children’s story I’d like to reboot.
How can someone contact you about your screen plays?