Ever since she kindly agreed that we could name our event after one of her books, we’ve considered young adult author Lois Duncan as an informal patron of the festival. To celebrate festival week 2013, we asked her about Stranger With My Face. And Stranger With My Face. And a few other things.
How do you feel about the festival being named after your novel?
I am thrilled and amazed to have a screen festival in Tasmania inspired by my young adult novel, Stranger with My Face. Little did I guess when I wrote my first suspense novel, back in the early 1960s, that I was helping to launch a genre that would become increasingly popular in years to come! Women and girls were not supposed to be attracted to such subject matter, yet when you stop to think about it, there are far more witches in fairy tales than there are ogres. A woman’s dark side can be more frightening than a man’s, because it’s so often hidden behind a mask of innocence.
Do you enjoy watching scary movies? If so, what is one of your favourites and why?
I like tension-filled suspense films with interesting characters and sudden, unexpected plot twists. Like the old Alfred Hitchcock movies. I loved the well-developed characters and the constantly building suspense in the recent film Hunger Games. I need to be mentally and emotionally invested in the characters in order to care what happens to them. I’m not into gore… images of people with their heads split open and their eyes gouged out, etc. I think the psychological aspects of the human personality can be much more terrifying than sensationalized violence, and the fear of what’s going to happen is more intense than the emotion the viewer feels when the event takes place.
Stranger With My Face taps into such an archetypal idea, that of a dark side to oneself that’s unknown, or the notion of an ‘evil twin’. Do you recall how the idea for that book came about? Was it always something that interested you?
I was always interested in the concept of astral projection or out-of body experiences (OBEs). I had read about the experiments being conducted by parapsychologists at various universities and found those fascinating. Even so, I wasn’t sure I really believed in this, and when I wrote Stranger With My Face, considered the book fantasy.
It wasn’t until I experienced an OBE myself that I realized they were valid.
As with many OBE’s, mine was triggered by emotional trauma–in my case, the murder of my teenage daughter. Overwhelmed by grief and frustration at a botched police investigation, I cried myself to sleep one night. Shortly before dawn, I was awakened by heavy vibrations starting in my feet and moving slowly up through my body to center in my chest. Then I experienced the sensation of being manually lifted, as if I were in a hospital bed with a back that could be raised mechanically. A moment later, without having moved a muscle, I found myself in an upright position. I looked down at the bed and saw my body still lying there. The instant my eyes caught sight of it, it drew me like a magnet, and I was snapped back into that body as if I were attached to it by an overstretched rubber band.
This happened on several occasions during the weeks that followed. I had no control over the phenomena and couldn’t direct my travel, as Lia and Laurie both could do in my fiction book. Since then, I’ve met several gifted people who could control the experience, so I now know it’s possible.
The evil twin was an off-shoot of the desire to write about astral projection and was not the trigger for the plot.
Do you sometimes scare yourself with the darkness in some of your books? For example with Lia, did you feel anxious about writing such a irredeemably bad character?
No. Because when I write, I’m in the driver’s seat. I am not threatened by those characters; I can control them. Evil people in real life are a different matter. Those I do find frightening.
Have fun this week! I wish I could be there.
Stranger With My Face is now available as an eBook. It’s also available in bookshops, such as this one near the festival venue!