Our next anthology author, Jane Hawley, penned the French Gothic tale that opens Stories We Tell After Midnight. She has a way with words that leave you entranced and disturbed, moved and recoiling at the same time. As an editor, I found myself less “editing” and more simply getting out of the way for her to share her prose. In her story, a beautiful, ancient Duchess leads a young man on a tour of her … orangerie …
Q (Infamous Scribbler): What inspired your story in this anthology? Tell us the “story behind the story.”
A (Jane Hawley): “The Orangery” is inspired by a confluence of a few different interests that I had at the time of conceiving the story. I was reading Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber, an excellent book of extremely dark, feminist fairy tales, and a biography of Marie Antoinette at the same time. I began to dream up the character of an aristocratic lady who was jealous of Marie Antoinette, but I wanted the story to have a kind of fantastic, fairy tale feel. I sometimes teach Robert Browning’s dramatic monologues to my high school students, specifically “My Last Duchess” and “Porphyria’s Lover,” which are also about twisted, toxic love. My choice to frame the story as a monologue in which the duchess is speaking to her victim was influenced by the structure of Browning’s poems.
Q: Why horror? Why do you write it? What about the genre appeals to you as an author?
A: I’ve always been drawn to the darker parts of life–the villains or ambiguous characters in novels and movies are often my favorite! Heroes can be so stereotypical in comparison. Writing and consuming horror is a safe way to experience the extreme emotions that are within all of us. You start to find your limits. What twisted things can you think up to do to your character? What really bothers you? Why would someone be driven to do certain things? I believe that terror and excitement can be bedfellows so writing horror is a particular challenge because you want to write something that draws a physiological response out of your readers. Their breath stops for a moment, the hair on their arms stands up, they feel a slight chill on the back of their neck…
Q: Who are some of your favorite horror authors, and why?
A: I love Mary Shelley. It’s said that she lost her virginity near her mother’s grave and kept her husband’s desiccated heart in the drawer of her writing desk after he died. Can you get any more goth than that?
JANE HAWLEYis a writer from San Luis Obispo, California. She earned her MFA in Fiction from Texas State University where she served as the Managing Editor of Front Porch Journal. Her work has most recently appeared in The Pinch, Memoir Journal, Day One, The Eastern Iowa Review, Southwestern American Literature, and Because I Was A Girl: True Stories for Girls of All Ages.