Felicity Dowker - Taking up the torch of Australian Speculative Fiction

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Felicity Dowker was born in 1980 in the Tasmanian city of Hobart. For the geographically challenged Tasmania is an Island state just below mainland Australia. She has since, perhaps fearing the descendants of Alexander Pearce, moved with her partner Stephen and their two children, Aiden and Layla, to the Victorian capital of Melbourne.

Besides being a Writer of considerable talent and clearly a Mother, Felicity also works as an Insurance Broker. Anyone else feeling tired just thinking about getting through all that in a day! Felicity has spent the past decade broking insurance as well as being a certified and practicing Doula. That would be a professional non-medical birth attendant for those wondering. [Editor's Note: You googled "Doula" didn't you!]

As of writing Felicity has over twenty pieces of fiction currently published or forthcoming, which isn't bad given she only took up the writing game in 2008. Ms Dowker also reviews for The Specusphere, is a member of both the Australian Horror Writers Association and the Andromeda Spaceways Publishing Co-operative, and has been involved with the conception and execution of the "Nameless" project/fundraiser/competition currently being hosted on the AHWA and HorrorScope websites.

In 2009 Felicity has made the finalist list of the prestigious Ditmar awards in the category of "Best New Talent", she's up against some stiff competition there but we have our fingers crossed for her at ScaryMinds. Clearly the horror community can't get enough of Felicity, not only does she have a Ditmar nomination going down but she has also been included on HorrorScope's Recommended Dark Fiction reading list for 2008.

Talk about your superwoman! Scaryminds would like to thank Felicity for taking the time out of her busy schedule to sit down and talk to us. Hope everyone enjoys the interview and seeks out Ms Dowker's writing, it will be well worth your trouble. A relatively full list of Felicity's published work can be found on her AHWA page, the link is listed directly after the interview.

ScaryMinds - How do you find time to write in amongst raising a family and working a hectic sounding job?

Felicity Dowker - First and foremost, I have an immensely generous and supportive partner. He is currently a stay-at-home dad during the day, so in the evenings and on weekends he carries that role even further by amusing the kids for a few hours here and there so I can sit down and write. I simply wouldn't be able to do it without him. Aside from that, I have to confess that I often don't find the time to write. I write in frenzied bursts of activity whenever I have the chance and inclination. My day-job does take a lot out of me and I am also conscious of not neglecting my family when I'm at home, so writing takes third place in my list of priorities at the moment. However, it is still a priority, and I try to give it the respect it deserves without taking away from my other commitments. As Stephen King said, "Life is not a support system for art. It's the other way round."

ScaryMinds - Do female horror writers still attract double takes or has the fan base accepted the fact that not all dark genre writers are male?

Felicity Dowker - Being a relative freshy to the scene, I only recently stumbled across some online debates about male versus female genre writers - I'd never considered it as an issue previously myself. I consider myself a feminist, so I was a little surprised that the possibility of gender issues within the writing community hadn't crossed my mind (d'uh, Felicity)! However, at this point I can only speak from my own experience as an author of short stories and novellas, and I can't say I'm aware of having been disadvantaged in any way as a female genre writer. Where I've written a saleable story, it has been bought, and to the best of my knowledge, my work has been well received based on its merits rather than the gender of its author. This is not to say I don't believe that female authors may experience a different reaction compared to male authors - given the context of the society in which we live it would be naïve to doubt that this does in fact occur. However, there have been fine Australian female genre writers around for a long time before I started putting pen to paper - Kaaron Warren, Cat Sparks, Margo Lanagan, to name a few - and they have achieved a high level of respect and accomplishment, so I wouldn't say that being a female genre writer automatically attracts double takes, no.

ScaryMinds - You are considered one of the "rising stars" of the modern Down Under horror writing scene, does this add pressure to make each new tale just that little bit more special?

Felicity Dowker - Yes - but I think every writer feels increasing self-generated pressure to improve as they progress in their craft, even if they are scribbling only for themselves and never published at all - so I think I would be striving to make each tale more special even if I hadn't received the gracious support and kind words I have been lucky enough to be gifted with over the last year.

ScaryMinds - In 2008 there was a virtual firestorm of Felicity Dowker short stories being published, any thoughts as to collecting them into a book release?

Felicity Dowker - I haven't really thought about it, but I think I'd rather wait until I'm a little further into my writing career before considering a collection. I'm not sure many people would actually be interested in reading a collection of my stories yet ("Felicity who?"). Also, in a year or two, I hope my work will have grown into something even better, and I wouldn't want to release a collection until I could feel absolutely confident that it was some of my best work ever.

ScaryMinds - If offered the opportunity would you take up writing as a full time occupation?

Felicity Dowker - Oh, God, yes. In a heartbeat. That is my ultimate goal.

ScaryMinds - Your chap book, Phantasy Moste Grotesk, has received stunning praise both locally and overseas, any plans to republish the work Down Under?

Felicity Dowker - The US chapbook was only officially released on April 17th this year, so no further plans as yet. I am fond of that warped little tale, though, so who knows where it mind end up?

ScaryMnds - . How do your family and friends react to having a dark dreamer in their midst? Full support or does the knife drawer get locked at night?

Felicity Dowker - My sister in law recently read Phantasy Moste Grotesk. Her slightly shell-shocked assessment was "you're a good writer, but it was very twisted". I do get a little apprehensive about friends and family reading my darker work, but they either avoid it if they can't stomach it, or they read it and are very supportive. My partner shares my love of horror - and already knew I was warped before he read my writing - so he isn't phased in the slightest. Most of my colleagues haven't a clue what I spend my spare time scribing, and when I do tell them I write dark fiction, their reactions range from shock to outright refusal to believe me. Obviously my ruse of normality works well.

ScaryMinds - Is there a subgenre in horror you prefer to write in or do you fit the themes and plot of a new story to the structure that the story best fits in?

Felicity Dowker - This morning I read a blog post describing one of my stories as "pure post-feminist splatterpunk". I hadn't a clue what post-feminism or splatterpunk were - I had to Google them. I only recently figured out what the hell steampunk was, and I'm still confused as to what constitutes post-modernism. I don't write with a subgenre in mind; in fact, I don't write with much in mind at all. I get ideas and I write about them as best I can. In saying that, I have passions, biases and influences like every other individual, and I do see those recurring in my stories. I'm also learning a lot, and as I learn I find myself experimenting with new themes and story structures. So, basically, it's all organised chaos.

ScaryMinds - What, if any, influences would you cite as having an affect on your writing style and body of work?

Felicity Dowker - I must apologise for being a clichéd horror fangirl, but - Stephen King. I grew up devouring his body of work with hungry eyes and I continue to do so to this day. He is undoubtedly my original and most powerful influence and inspiration. I'm also partial to Clive Barker, Edgar Allen Poe, and HP Lovecraft. I've had a pretty colourful life and gone to some pretty low places, and I do pour a lot of that into my work. I've always been an avid reader and from a young age I've been compelled to write for relief and for joy. I don't believe anyone can be a good writer without being a good reader first. I continue to find new influences and inspiration and my writing shifts and changes as a result of that.

ScaryMinds - Do you have the great Australian horror novel brewing away somewhere or is book length writing not something you want to devote yourself to at this stage of your career?

Felicity Dowker - I definitely want to write novels - hopefully lots of them - and have them published, and enjoy a modicum of success. That's the big picture for me. Right now, though, I'm focusing on the short form and on improving my writing. I have some characters and plot ideas for my first novel rattling around in my head, clamouring to be set free, so I do plan to start writing that novel this year. At some point. Eventually.

ScaryMinds - In terms of finding time to write, do you have a part of the day set aside as Felicity's writing time or do you grab what time you can in amongst the general mayhem in the Dowker household?

Felicity Dowker - As a natural result of working 9-5 and having two young children, I find myself writing only at night and on weekends. I absolutely do not write every day, and I try not to beat myself up about it. I generally write in the lounge room with my laptop on my knee surrounded by all the hubbub of family life, though every now and then I grab a treasured hour or two alone in the bedroom with the door shut; just me, my laptop, and my muse.

ScaryMinds - Do you have one story, published or otherwise, that you are particularly proud of, or is that tale still waiting somewhere behind your pen?

Felicity Dowker - My favourite story so far is probably Ill Conceived, published in The Black Garden anthology released by Corpulent Insanity Press in March 2009. I'm proud of the quirky originality of the subject matter and I think everything just worked very well - characters, plot and the writing itself all meshed harmoniously. I got to weave in a little bit of in-your-face earthy femininity and throw some homebirth into my horror, which I enjoyed. Plus, it's nasty. I do feel, though, that my best work is yet to come. I hope this is true, anyway!

ScaryMinds - . What's the future, in terms of writing, hold for you? Will you continue to produce stories of the macabre or do you see yourself branching out into different genres?

Felicity Dowker - I can't remember who said it, but I recently read an author commenting that they didn't want to be defined as a genre writer, they just wanted to be a writer. I agree with that sentiment. I don't only read dark fiction and I don't want to be confined to only writing dark fiction. I think creativity functions according to its own innate evolution and I'm happy to follow mine where ever it takes me. My heart is in the darker realms, but there are other elements to me, and I'd like to explore all of them in my writing. In saying that, I believe that truly great dark fiction touches on all the areas of the human condition and cannot be boxed into a single definitive label - and that is what I aspire to in my own writing.

Scaryminds would like to once again thank Felicity for taking time out of her hectic life to answer our questions. We look forward to reading more from one of Felicity's work in the future and wish her well with her writing, family, and Insurance Broking.

For more Felicity Dowker information please visit the following sites

Here There Be Tygers The official Felicity Dowker blog site. Keep up to date right here folks with Felicity's day to day feelings, what she's working on, and general topics of interest

AHWA Web Page The Ms Dowker Horror Writer's Association entry