Interview: with Juleigh Howard-Hobson
Juleigh Howard-Hobson’s poetry has appeared in Silver Blade, Illumen, Enchanted Conversation, Liquid Imagination, Polu Texni, Star*Line, The 2018 Rhysling Award Anthology (Science Fiction Poetry Association), Weaving the Terrain (Dos Gatos), Mandragora (Scarlett Imprint) and many other places. Her fifth collection is Our Otherworld (Red Salon, 2018). Her sonnet Return Pain Spell appears in Breach #10.
Hi Juleigh! Can you please tell us a little bit about yourself?
I live in the US, but I was born in England and grew up in Parramatta, NSW. It probably explains why I was drawn to speculative writing – it’s an alternative world that constantly exists the way the writer wants it to.
Right now, I live on a homestead in the rural Pacific Northwest of the USA, it is full of fog, rain, shadowy woods and strange sudden clearings. A perfect place to practice both magic and poetry. Coincidently, the TV series Grimm, and the Twilight books and movies were set here.
Do you have any particular writing rituals you are comfortable sharing?
Not so much ritual as a ritual item: I have a hunk of red jasper that resembles a small anatomically correct human heart; it sets the tone for much of my desk atmosphere and the fact that I found it by the side of a river never ceases to amaze me. That amazement is all I really need.
Are there any horror/fantasy/sci-fi tropes or sub genres which you feel are played out?
It’s a toss-up between 1) the retellings of everything from Frankenstein to Baba Yaga and
2) the dystopian apocalypses.
And vice versa, what tropes would you like to see more of?
The actual speculative. The current state of the world has created a ‘this is good/intelligent/worthy’ and ‘that is evil/stupid/pointless’ dichotomy, which is understandable… but it’s regrettable, and it implies certainties where there should be questions. I am no hippy, but I do question authority. Especially moral/intellectual authority. Give me black magic for personal gain without the literarily-inevitable negative repercussions, give me a flat Earth with an edge of solid ice without the anti-IQ aspersions... Serious speculation.
What books are beside your bed right now?
A handwritten notebook of poetic forms, compiled by me.
My personal journal for magical and/or runic thought.
Catalogues from various nurseries that sell plants and seeds for the dark gardener.
Spear of Stars by Jason O’Toole (speculative poetry)
The Witch Cult in Western Europe by Margaret Murray (non-fiction)
Something from the Nightside by Simon R. Green (paranormal mystery I picked up on a whim)
And finally, The Cockroach Conservatory, Vol. 2: Glory of Man: The Rise and Fall of the Reality Soldier (which just arrived, and I am in).
Published or unpublished, what's the hardest scene you've written?
I’m primarily a poet, and a formal one at that, so I am going to switch this question up a bit and ask, ‘What is the hardest poem you’ve ever written’? That would be any of my spell sonnets, one of which is in Breach. These are not just sonnets, which are tricky enough with their definite form that must be exactly fit, but these are spells. Real spells. Working spells that have to be distilled, reconstructed, their wording figured out again and again to conform to the stricture of the sonnet I want them to become. It’s hard, and sometimes they don’t work and I have to put them aside. That’s difficult to do when I want them to work, but I must or else my set would be compromised. I want whoever comes upon these to be able to wring real magical change from them.
How important is social media to you as an indie author?
It makes everything easier. Like true magic. We can make our presence, our image, everything we wish to reveal of ourselves as widely distributed or as arcane as we want. It’s real power. I prefer the shadows, but I want my work to see the light – that’s the beauty of social media. My work and my words can go very far ‘without me’. Or perhaps I should say ‘despite me’? Either way, I find social media vital as an indie author with a tendency toward the esoterical and hermetic.