TC Parker has only recently arrived on the horror scene but has already made a splash with her novel Saltblood and more recently A Press of Feathers (both are terrific reads). When she was suggested as someone to approach for a short story, I couldn’t wait to see what she came up with – and I promise you, you won’t be disappointed. TC takes us to the Third Circle with her story, ‘Cerberus’.
Infernal Clock: What was the inspiration behind your story?
Classical Hollywood! And especially Whatever Happened To Baby Jane? I love those ‘50s narratives about unlikeable people thrust together through mutual dependency who don’t get much more likeable as the narrative progresses, but whose very unlikability keeps you entertained. See also: Norma Desmond, Margo Channing/Eve Harrington and about a thousand others!
Infernal Clock: What is your idea of hell on earth?
There are so many to choose from! I’m a gay woman with a lot of opinions – things wouldn’t have gone so well for me in most periods in history I can think of! Not that things are perfect now, I hasten to add…
Infernal Clock: The Inferno was created on old ideas of sin. If you had to label the nine levels how, what would you call them? Would you keep it at 9? Increase or decrease?
I think probably decrease, significantly!
I’m an atheist, so I’d like to see Limbo and Heresy go, as well as some of the more theistic Rings (… though, equally, as an atheist, perhaps it wouldn’t make much different to me if they stayed or went!)
The Lust circle feels unnecessarily punitive, so I’d probably lose that one too.
Greed, Wrath and Violence still feel like pretty solid choices, though.
Infernal Clock: They say the Devil has all the good tunes. What song would you recommend as an accompaniment to your story?
Anything with an angry female vocalist would probably do the trick. But the three songs that spring to mind (all of which I’m sure I was listening to when I wrote the story) are Marianne Faithfull’s Ballad of Lucy Jordan, Skunk Anansie’s All I Want and the Cell Block Tango from Chicago.
Infernal Clock: If you were able to visit the Inferno, what level would you want to go to and who would you want to see there?
Given Dante’s moral compass, I feel like most of the people I’ve ever admired would be there, in one circle or another.
I’d definitely check in on Michel Foucault – probably in Heresy, though I’m sure more than a few of the other circles would be happy to have him. And maybe Ada Lovelace, while I’m there.
Infernal Clock: What is the hottest food you’ve ever eaten. Can you share a recipe?
Unfortunately, my kids like it bland, so I don’t have much opportunity to cook much with heat at the moment! But I love beef rendang, which can get pretty hot, and a decently-strong Thai green curry.
Infernal Clock: Who is your ‘favourite’ villain in history or fiction?
She’s a movie character rather than one from literature, but Linda Fiorentino’s character in John Dahl’s The Last Seduction is an absolutely perfect villain, for me: clever, amoral, sociopathic and, best of all, always six steps ahead of everyone around her. If she’s down in the Inferno, then she’s running it.
Infernal Clock: What is your long-term ambition for your writing?
Just to keep on producing books, really: I’ve had four out this year, and am working on a fifth which I’d like to finish before Christmas. In the immediate term, I’d like to wrap up my con-artist trilogy – I hate leaving things unfinished, and it’s hurting me to be only 2 books into a 3 book series!
Infernal Clock: Top-tip for other writers
Write for an audience, not only for yourself – with a focus on clarity and intelligibility as you communicate your ideas. And keep the narrative interesting – you want people to want to read on, so – simplistic as it sounds – make sure that things keep happening in your story. Unless you’re Virginia Woolf, you probably don’t want 100 pages of an internal monologue meditation on whether or not to buy the flowers.
TC Parker is a writer and researcher based in the fox-ravaged wilds of Leicestershire, where she lives with her partner and two extremely energetic children. A former copywriter and lecturer with a PhD in media and politics and nowhere to put it, she runs a cultural insight agency by day and dreams up horror and crime fiction at night—including Saltblood, a dystopian-survivalist creature-feature set on an island prison in a near-future Scotland and, as Natalie Edwards, the con-artist thrillers The Debt and The Push. She can be tracked down online at https://www.tcparkerwrites.com/, tweets enthusiastically at @writestc, and has just published her new novel A Press of Feathers—a Midlands-set tale of female rage, haunted houses, marauding crows and the human horrors of recession. No doubt because of her tendency to write long in almost all circumstances, Cerberus is her first short story. She hopes you like it.
As TC Parker, I’ve released 2 horror novels this year:
And also the first 2 books in my El Gardener con-artist trilogy (written under my real name, Natalie Edwards):
Book 3 in the series, tacitly titled The Remembrance, hopefully soon to come!
You can find me online via my website, www.tcparkerwrites.com, and on Twitter as @WritesTC