Today we’re riding the rails with Deathscribe Chelsea Paice, author of “We Apologize for the Inconvenience.” Chelsea has been working in the Chicago theater community since 2007. She has recently performed with Strawdog, The Hypocrites, and Lifeline as an actor, and is thrilled to now be included amongst the illustrious writers of Deathscribe! Her previous writing work includes a screenplay for a movie version of The X-Files that she wrote when she was in 6th grade. It remains tragically unproduced. Today, she’ll be speaking to us about her formative years, how Horror serves society, and What Scares Her.
How did you get into horror?
I think I was introduced to the world of horror in the same way as a lot of kids in my generation – I was given the book Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, with art by Stephen Gammell. The stories are scary to a kid (some of them to me today – spiders in your face!) But the art was what truly got me (again – it still does).
What excites you most about writing horror, compared to other genres?
Horror has a unique fascination for an audience – and for me it’s always about what might make an audience sit forward in their seats (and then jump backwards). Horror allows you to explore things that are taboo to talk about in polite society, which of course means that we’re all dying to explore them.
What was the hook for you in this story? What came first, the story or the sound?
For me it was the sound. I was on the CTA and heard, as you sometimes do, the announcement about a medical emergency on a train ahead. At that moment, I thought: “That announcement will by my first sign of the end of the world.” The story bloomed from that seed.
What do you consider the biggest challenge in writing for “radio,” compared to traditional theatre?
Well, the obvious answer is the lack of the visual element. Humans read so much from physical and facial expression, though the voice can express so much. The challenge for radio is: How much do your characters have to actually tell the audience, vs. what can the sound show on its own?
What discoveries have you made about storytelling during this process that you are excited to use in future projects?
I’m a novice writer, so I think the amount I learn with each thing I write is huge. In this case, I learned to let myself write what I was excited about at the moment. I used to think I was supposed to begin at the beginning and move forward from there. For my Deathscribe piece, I wrote the end, then the beginning, then fleshed out the middle. It helped me know where I was going throughout.
What sound would you most like to see/hear performed in a Deathscribe piece?
I don’t think I can say without giving things away . . . let’s just say it should be pretty gross.
Do you have any advice for aspiring Deathscribes?
Submit! I’m a total novice writer, and was hemming and hawing to a friend about having an idea but not being sure it would be any good. She gave me some very good advice: Just write the damn thing and turn it in.
How do you find inspiration for your stories?
I always want to hear from writers on where they gather the fertilizer for their ideas – not where the ideas come from (because I think it’s seldom one place), but instead what they consume that mixes in their brain like a magic potion to flow out as a new idea. For me, it’s science, memoir, and other non-fiction. I think real life is fascinating with little help from fiction, so I listen to RadioLab and This American Life, read Mary Roach and David Sedaris and Oliver Sacks and Bill Bryson, and consume a lot of strange news stories.
What scares you?
Kids can be really creepy – their brains haven’t yet developed the empathy or conscience that most adults have, so they have similarities to psychopaths. I love stories that exploit that difference between kids and adults.
Religious zealots scare me – their logic about the world comes from a completely irrational place, so their actions can’t be controlled by normal logic/rational thinking. They think that as long as they behave according to their secret code, they get to go to an eternal land of awesome – so if that code means killing, torturing, raping, etc, they’re all for it. This isn’t about regular religious people, obviously, just those who are crazy and religious.
Losing my mind scares me – the idea that I could lose my grip on reality (through age, disease, or accident) is very scary. I love reading stories about brain disorders and their strange effects (read any Oliver Sacks book, you can thank me later), but for that to happen to me is one of my biggest nightmares.
Chelsea Paice is guaranteed to have a Strange Effect on you with “We Apologize for the Inconvenience,” directed by Kevin Theis at Deathscribe 2013 on Monday, December 2nd!