Today I have Susan Earlam on the blog, talking about eco-horror, the environment and her new book, Earthly Bodies.
Hi Susan, could you briefly introduce yourself?
Hello. I’m a writer, I live in Cheshire with my family. I started a blog in 2010. I’d had my first child and chose not to go back to work as an Art teacher, but I needed something for me. I rediscovered the writing bug and went on to be one of the top interior bloggers in the UK, recognised at the 2015 Amara Interior Blog Awards. In 2017 I changed direction and began to write fiction. My shorter work has appeared in publications and anthologies including Pure Slush, feminist surrealism journal; The Debutante, Mslexia, Reflex Fiction & Cabinet of Heed.
In Earthly Bodies, Rebecca is leaving Earth for a new start, would you follow in her footsteps if given the chance?
Rebecca has lost so much and feels like there is nothing left for her on Earth. I think if I were in her situation, and had been through what she has, I’d take the chance and do the same.
What draws you to write about a future where climate change has prevailed?
I think because I see it everyday. The swings in the weather and seasons, the animals and people being moved from their homes because of deforestation and/or climate change. Having two children who have to live in this world after I’m gone really pushes the point home too.
What is eco-horror?
It is usually defined as dreadful ecological events occurring directly related to, and as a consequence of, human activity. It is sometimes called cli-fi; climate fiction. Mother Nature is one of the characters in some way.
Many readers can be put off by the horror genre, but have nevertheless enjoyed books that fall into it. How would you sway someone who thought Earthly Bodies sounded good but “doesn’t do horror”?
I would say that it isn’t that far fetched from real life, it’s just a small step outside of what they know. It also serves as a “this could happen if we don’t sort ourselves out” kind of warning, so I’d say it is educational too.
In what way is Earthly Bodies a feminist horror story?
There are similar threads to books like The Handmaid’s Tale and The Power. That of living in a patriarchal society, and perhaps how that can be transformed.
Did you go down any surprising rabbit holes while researching?
So many! From articles in praise of the sci-fi corridor to autobiographical information about people who might have inspired some of my characters.
Earthly Bodies has a gorgeous cover, who designed it?
I used 99designs for my cover because I’d spotted a book I loved the look of on their Instagram feed. In the end I actually invited Marta to take part and it was her design that I chose. We worked closely on it and were very much aligned with the vision. I’m thrilled with it! Find her portfolio here.
What do you feel is one achievable thing that people can do to help the environment?
I think small steps are better than no steps. So, making an effort to seek out second hand items where possible and generally not buying as much. Think before you buy. Also cutting out dairy if possible and meat too. I know these are huge lifestyle choices though, and not for everyone, even just eating less meat or choosing more carefully where you buy it from. I do think there are elements of being “eco” that are more accessible for those with more disposable income. The governmental and economic systems around this do need to change in order for everyone to be able to make these choices.
In what ways do you enjoy spending time with nature?
I love spending time in woodland, lockdown has been great for discovering the local area and I’m lucky enough to be within walking distance of some beautiful places. I love the ocean though, and I’ve not been able to get to a beach for over a year due to travel restrictions. I can’t wait to have a paddle and experience the smell, sights and sounds of being close to the tides. My cat Billy is another way I enjoy the natural world, he follows me everywhere.
What are you currently reading?
I’ve just just started a re-read actually, one of my favorite books, The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova. It’s so atmospheric and great for travel, even if it is only in my mind’s eye.
Where can you be found online?
It is 2058. Rebecca, a widow, receives an invitation to leave Earth and start over, but nature has evolved and is tagging along for the ride.
Earthly Bodies is a dystopian eco-horror story that spans the ages, where strangers reveal their contribution to an extraordinary act of survival.
An artist ahead of his time crafts a new way of painting portraits, causing outcry and claims of heresy.
A military man becomes obsessed with growing something he found on manoeuvres far from home.
A lonely geneticist helps her brother with his plan to save humanity; secretly selecting humans to join a mission and escape a ravaged Earth.
Rebecca seeks a fresh start, away from her devastating loss.
Harmony with Nature is everyone’s wish, it’s time to be careful what you wish for.