Thursday, February 25, 2010

Interview with Author and Actress Barbie Wilde

Barbie Wilde was born in Canada and educated in the USA and England. As an actress, she has appeared as the Female Cenobite in Clive Barker’s classic horror movie Hellbound: Hellraiser II, as a vicious mugger in Death Wish III, as a robotic dancer in the Bollywood blockbuster, Janbazz and as a drummer for an electronica band in the so-called “Holy Grail of unfinished and unreleased 80′s horror” Grizzly II: The Predator, AKA Grizzly II: The Concert.

In the early 1980′s, Barbie performed in New York, London and Amsterdam with the mime-dance-music group, SHOCK: supporting such artists as Gary Numan, Ultravox, Depeche Mode and Adam & the Ants.

As a television presenter and writer, Barbie helmed The American Hot 100 for Skytrax TV, The Morning Show and Supersonic for Music Box TV, The Small Screen for ITV, Hold Tight for Granada, and The Gig for LWT. She also presented the film history show Sprockets, which is still shown on Sky TV.

After completing her first novel, The Venus Complex, a fictionalized journal of a serial killer, Barbie is currently working on an erotic vampire novel called Valeska.  She has also contributed a well-received short story entitled Sister Cilice to Hellbound Hearts, a horror anthology based on Clive Barker’s novella, The Hellbound Heart, which was the basis for eight subsequent Hellraiser films.

Fatally Yours: What does horror mean to you?

Barbie Wilde: Horror is a very intimate thing for me – rooted in my childhood. I watched a lot of horror movies when I was a kid and I took them very seriously. I believed them and I was quite a fearful child because of it.  My nightly routine was to check in the closet for monsters, underneath the bed for alien pods (from Invasion of the Body Snatchers) and underneath the covers for flesh-eating spiders.

Fatally Yours: How did you fall in love with the horror genre? 

Barbie Wilde: I can’t really say that I’m unconditionally in love with the horror genre, but it certainly had a major impact on me.

As a kid, I was fascinated by vampires, but to be frank, it was more a pre-teen/teen sexual thing. After all, who wouldn’t want to get bitten on the neck by Dracula (played by Christopher Lee) or Barnabas Collins from Dark Shadows?  I wrote a term paper in junior high entitled “The Vampire in Gothic Literature” and my teacher, Mr. Eugene Roche (I can’t believe that I remember his name), told me I had a truly Gothic mind, which was a thrilling complement at the time.

The things that really got me going are the 1950s and early 1960s Sci-Fi Creature Classics on “Saturday Afternoon at the Movies” that my older brother made me watch on TV. I recently viewed the 1956 version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers again and I still found it hard to look at – it had such a devastating effect on me when I was young. (I was always devising tests for friends and family to see if they had been taken over by aliens. It made for a very paranoid childhood.)

Other favs were The Thing (1952), The Haunting (1963) and The Innocents (1961).  Of course, television horror was influential, such as repeats of the original series of The Twilight Zone, Night Gallery and The Outer Limits.

I’ve also enjoyed (if that’s the right word) the Alien franchise, Event Horizon, The Ring, John Carpenter’s The Thing, Audition and Constantine. I’m not really into the new visceral horror movie trend, such as Saw and Wolf Creek. I recently watched Drag Me To Hell and while effective, I couldn’t really take it seriously, although it had its truly gross moments.

Of course, to me, horror is much more intertwined with humans rather than monsters, hence my fascination with serial killers: horror with a human face, in other words.  Horror for me is more concerned with human yearning and anxiety. It’s not gore that turns me on, but the plausibility of the ordinary turning into the extraordinary.

Hitchcock’s Psycho still sets the standard for me and I remember very clearly watching it on television with my parents in the late 1960s. It was ground-breaking for its time and still is, in my opinion. My favorite modern equivalent would be Se7en.

Fatally Yours: You are most well known for your portrayal of the Female Cenobite in Hellbound: Hellraiser II. What drew you to this role and how did you land it? 

Barbie Wilde: I suppose I was asked to attend the audition because of my training as a mime artist. They used mime artists for 2001: A Space Odyssey in 1968 and a lot of film-makers since then have gone for mimes or dancers for mask or creature work because of their physical discipline. I can’t think of any other reason why they would’ve call me in, other than the fact that I was the right size for the costume made for Grace Kirby, the “Female Cenobite” from the first Hellraiser film.

I nearly didn’t go to the audition, because I found the first Hellraiser movie so disturbing. I also thought that I was going up for “The Chatterer” and the concept of being in a complete face mask was too much for this claustrophobic. I was relieved to find out that I was auditioning for the role of the “Female Cenobite”.

Perhaps I got the part because I knew what a Cenobite was, since I looked it up in the dictionary before my meeting with the director, Tony Randel. He was under the impression that Clive had invented the word and I had to correct him on that point.

Fatally Yours: You’ve done a lot in your career, from acting to mime performances to interviewing rock stars to hosting a film review program to writing, among other things. If you can pick, what has been your favorite? 

Barbie Wilde: To be honest, I never felt that acting was my forte, but I really enjoyed being a TV presenter and being myself on camera. However, my new love is writing -  creating characters and stories, and being the ruler in my own little universe – but it is the hardest thing to do.

Fatally Yours: As an author, are there any sub-genres of horror (vampires, zombies, etc.) that you are sick of? What type of horror would you like to see more of?

Barbie Wilde: There has been a real glut of vampires on the market recently, but I can’t say I’m sick of them, because I’m writing a vampire novel. Trying to create something unique out of that genre is a challenge.

As mentioned above, the type of horror that I prefer is less blood and guts, and more suspense.
I know that this might be an unpopular thing to say, but I really don’t have much time for zombies. They’re weird, dead and boring. Werewolves seem to be mindlessly violent, but to be fair, I haven’t seen any recent zombie or werewolf films lately.

Vampires have a bit more class, depth, sexuality and character, which is why they’ve had such enduring popularity over the years.

Fatally Yours: Why do you think the horror genre has been primarily male-dominated?

Barbie Wilde: Well, let’s face it, the world is male-dominated, so it’s always going to be a battle to get your work noticed. I take heart that one of the first great modern horror stories, Frankenstein, was written by a woman. Think of the problems that Mary Shelley must have had, trying to get published back in the early 19th century, but she managed it. (Of course, the first edition in 1818 was published anonymously, so that may have helped.)

Fatally Yours: What elements can female authors bring to the horror genre that are lacking in males’ perspectives?

Barbie Wilde: Horror from the clich├ęd male perspective is normally a nasty monster chasing a screaming girl whose clothes are slowly falling off. The discomfort for men might be seeing this in reverse!

I don’t like to be judgmental of writers, male or female, so I can only speak for myself.  In my own work, I seek to use my imagination to expose the sensuality and sexuality that is inherent both in horror and crime. In my novel, The Venus Complex, which is still looking for a publisher to understand it, I wanted to show the sexual mindscape of an ordinary man who becomes a serial killer. I don’t think sexual motivations have been fully addressed yet in most of the fictional serial killer literature that I’ve read.

In Sister Cilice, the story that I wrote for the Hellbound Hearts anthology, I explored the sexual frustrations of a woman who was never allowed to be herself and who was so demoralized by her world that summoning the Cenobites was a relief and an escape for her.

By the way, one horror author that I know of that does address sexuality and sensuality beautifully is Clive Barker.

Fatally Yours: Do you feel women authors in horror get the proper recognition when compared to their male counterparts?

Barbie Wilde: Well, like I said above, it’s a struggle to get your work recognized, whether you’re male or female. I think that there may be a perception amongst reviewers and publishers that women may not be quite up to the task, or perhaps they find the idea of women writing horror unpalatable.

Fatally Yours: Since you’ve been involved with the horror genre, have you noticed an increase in women becoming involved with the genre, whether they be fans or writers?

Barbie Wilde: I’m seeing a lot more women being involved in all levels: writing, directing, running websites, you name it.

Fatally Yours: Do you feel that other people view women as not being able to endure horror as well as men? How do you fight this stereotypical view?

Barbie Wilde: I think men and women may view horror from different perspectives, as there are plenty of women of my generation that I know who wouldn’t dream of watching films like Hellraiser or Saw. However, there is a tough new breed of females out there that I’ve met at conventions who absolutely adore horror.

And as to how to fight the stereotype: well, three quarters of the men on this planet still regard women as their possessions who are just there for sex, babies and cooking.  As long as women are out there creating and making powerful statements about their art and the alterative ways to be perceived by men, there’s hope that this might change eventually.

Fatally Yours: How do you go about creating strong female characters in your stories?

Barbie Wilde: I just like to create interesting characters; their sex is immaterial. I loved inventing my serial killer, Michael. I think that I have a lot of hidden rage that I was able to tap into to make him a believable character.

To create Sister Cilice, I went back to the source material: The Hellbound Heart by Clive Barker. I loved the sensuality and tone of that story. After thinking about it for a few days, I came up with the opening paragraph of the story and then it just spewed out of me. I don’t know where my ideas come from, it’s almost like channeling, if you like. Once I create the characters, I let them go and see where they take me.

Fatally Yours: Which women in horror do you admire?

Barbie Wilde: Mary Shelley, Shirley Jackson, Anne Rice (for Interview with a Vampire only). I liked Sarah Pinborough’s story, The Confessor’s Tale, in Hellbound Hearts. I really enjoyed the True Blood TV series – from the books written by Charlaine Harris. True Blood was violent, audacious, sexy and hilarious – and quite original.

Fatally Yours: What inspires, influences and motivates you to keep writing about the darker side of life?

Barbie Wilde: I’ve always been obsessed by the darker, criminal side, perhaps because it’s so alien to what I am as a person. Is it admiration with the power the dark side exudes? Probably.

As far as influences are concerned, you just have to turn on 24-hour TV news to be confronted with the dark side of human beings – as well as the more unpleasant aspects of Nature.

Fatally Yours: What advice would you give women who want to become involved in the horror genre?

Barbie Wilde: Don’t give up. Follow your passions and obsessions, wherever they may lead. (Although keep it legal, if you can.)

Fatally Yours: Who are your favorite horror authors and what are your favorite horror novels?

Barbie Wilde:  Writers: Clive Barker, Paul Kane, Bram Stoker, Mary Shelley, Shirley Jackson. Novels: Dracula, Frankenstein, The Stand, The Shining (at the heart of the story is a perversion of family relationships, which is very interesting), The Hellbound Heart, American Psycho, Paul Kane’s Red.

Actually, my favorite books are usually nonfiction, because I’m constantly, continually researching.  My top non-fiction author who specializes in crime would be Colin Wilson – for Order of Assassins: The Psychology of Murder, Written in Blood and The Criminal History of Mankind.

Fatally Yours: What was the last good book in the horror genre that you read?

Barbie Wilde: I thought that Darkness and Light by Paul Kane was excellent. I also liked Closer by Sarah Gran.

Fatally Yours: What are your goals for yourself within the literary world?

Barbie Wilde: I’d like to get my first novel The Venus Complex published and finish my vampire book as soon as possible. I’ve also co-written a musical and I’d love to see that produced. It’s quite violent and contains elements of film noir. The website is at:

Fatally Yours: Where can people find more info on you?

Barbie Wilde:  at

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