After years in the entertainment industry, Barbie Wilde got her big break in horror when she scored a role as a cenobite in Hellbound: Hellraiser II.
Now, after having escaped pinhead’s hooked chains she has turned her attention to writing and has caused a stir with her works that are as clever and critical as they are dark and disturbing.
We were invited to Barbie’s lair to learn more about her and her creations.
Barbie Wilde Interview
Did you expect that your book The Venus Complex would generate the controversy it did? [A Library in Edmonton decided to ban the book back in 2013]
I was surprised that the Edmonton Public Library refused to stock the book when it was requested by one of its patrons, who was a local journalist who wanted to do an interview with me. I thought that the excuses the Library came up with were pretty lame: the book was unavailable (not true, it was available from all the Amazons, Barnes and Noble and the printers, Ingrams) and that the book had no reviews. Apparently extremely positive reviews by Fangoria, Scream Magazine UK, HorrorTalk, Starburst Magazine, Brutal as Hell, HorrorNewsNetwork, Fear Magazine, The British Fantasy Society, Rue Morgue (to mention just a few) and excellent reviews on the Amazons and Goodreads websites weren’t good enough.
I challenged the library that it was ignoring controversial books published by independent publishers, so they proceeded to list the edgy authors that they did stock, like Jack Ketchum, John Skipp, Clive Barker and Bret Easton Ellis. I noticed a trend and I called them out on it. Why were there no so-called “edgy” female authors being stocked? I never received a response. Also, considering that I’m Canadian author, I would have hoped for more support from a Canadian Public Library. However, I was pleased when the Windsor Ontario Public Library did stock eventually the book.
Absolutely, although I’m sure that the EPL would say that they didn’t ban The Venus Complex as such, they just refused to stock it. However, as far as I’m concerned, that’s the same thing.
The world of book publishing is changing so radically and so fast that it is hard for established institutions to catch up. It seems that almost everyone has a book out nowadays and it’s really hard to get noticed. It can be difficult to get reviewed and for every review that I received because I played the Female Cenobite in Hellbound: Hellraiser II, there were plenty of websites and publications who didn’t review The Venus Complex because I was just some actress with a book out. It seems that some people just don’t like the idea of actors and actresses “crossing over” and doing something different, like writing. (The X Files actress Gillian Anderson recently came into a lot of flack from professional writers because she received a fat advance to write a novel. From my point of view, I say “Go Gillian!”, but I sensed a lot of bitterness from some writers who felt that she got the book deal because of who she was, rather than on merit.)
What do you think it was about The Venus Complex that garnered such a reaction?
I tried to be as honest as possible when writing about the lead character in the book, Art History Professor Michael Friday, who was a regular professional guy who decides to become a serial killer. I think that what has disturbed readers most is that I – as a woman – was writing so realistically solely from a male viewpoint. I also wanted to explore the sexual mindscape of a serial killer, which again is pretty controversial. I didn’t see the point of writing a book about a sexual serial killer without going into his graphic fantasies and murders.
I think that a lot of readers have been intrigued by Michael’s rants and opinions about the world and the humans that inhabit it. He is absolutely politically incorrect and I feel that as reprehensible as his actions are, some readers do identify with him and admire his courage at expressing his opinions.
What were your inspirations behind the novel and what was the appeal to write a complex tale from the perspective of a serial killer?
A friend of mine (who was a professional dominatrix) once declared to me that her greatest sexual fantasy was to sleep with a serial killer. This was from a woman who not only had a Masters Degree in Human Sexuality, but was well on her way to getting her Masters in Forensic Psychology. I was shocked, but the statement intrigued me and started the chain of thought that ended up as The Venus Complex.
I started to write the book from the viewpoint of the plucky female Forensic Psychologist who was on the trail of a serial killer, but I got bored half way through. It was turning out to be just like all the other books about serial killers that I’d read and I wanted to do something different. I decided to go back to the beginning and write from the perspective of the killer himself, still in the Third Person, but it just wasn’t intimate enough for me. I wanted the reader to be stuck in Professor Michael Friday’s head, so I had to write the book in First Person, in journal form.
You’ve recently collaborated with fellow cenobite Nicholas Vince (and several other authors) on the book titled “Demonologia Biblica”, what was it like working with him on a different medium as opposed to film?
We didn’t actually work together, although it would be fun to do so in the future! Nicko came up with his story, “Z is for Zizuph: Sympathy for the Devil” and I with mine: “A is for Alpdrück”. A friend of mine suffers from sleep paralysis and has told me about his experience, which are pretty horrifying. A couple of centuries back, people thought that a demon called an Alpdrück was the cause of sleep paralysis, which is where the idea came from.
“Demonologia Biblica” is an anthology, was that more challenging to write rather than straight-forward narrative?
I actually find writing short stories great fun, because it’s a challenge to create a narrative arc that’s as satisfying in a short story as it would be in a novel. And it’s fun to try get your ideas across in less than 6000 words. Although I agonize over my stories, 6000 words is a doddle compared to writing a novel!
You were one of the genre females to take part in the fantastic Women in Horror 2014 calendar that raised money for the rape crisis and the Sophie Lancaster foundation? What does it mean to you to be part of such a great cause?
I love the project and I hope that the organizer and creative force behind the calendar, Melanie Light, does another calendar next year. The photographs by Tina Kohenen are brilliant and everyone put a lot of love, imagination, quality and attention into the project.
As for the cause, violence against women is still so prevalent in so many cultures in the world, including our own. That has to be highlighted and the women who have suffered have to be supported. As for Sophie, her story really touched my heart, so I’m really proud to be part of the project.
Do you think women have generally been under-represented within the horror genre and due to causes such as Women in Horror Month are attitudes beginning to change?
Some women in the genre have done tremendously well and worked really hard to get to the top, but in my opinion, it isn’t easy to be a woman in the business of writing, filmmaking, whatever. However, I can’t change my gender and I don’t want to do something else, so I just have to continue to fight for recognition as a writer. I’d like to think that attitudes are changing, but it’s a tough slog. I always like to use the catchphrase from the film GalaxyQuest whenever anyone asks me for advice in the writing or acting profession: “Never give up! Never surrender!”
I take inspiration from filmmakers and writers like Jen and Sylvia Soska (Dead Hooker in a Trunk, American Mary, See No Evil 2, Vendetta), Jovanka Vulkovich (The Captured Bird, The Guest, Self-Portrait, Jacqueline Ess), Mary Harron (American Psycho, The Notorious Bettie Page), and Kathryn Bigelow (Zero Dark Thirty, The Hurt Locker, Strange Days, Point Break, Blue Steel, Near Dark).
What are your favourite memories from working on Hellraiser II?
Having a laugh in full makeup behind the scenes with my fellow Cenobites. Doug, Nicko and Simon were the best folks to work with, along with Ashley Laurence, Ken Cranham and the fabulous Clare Higgins. The makeup process was fairly gruelling, so the long-suffering makeup crew get a special mention as well!
Here’s a link to some of the Cenobite shenanigans on Youtube:
However, if I have to think of one special moment, it has to be my first day on set.
I’d popped over to the States to visit my folks for Christmas and my plane back to London was delayed for 24 hours. After my 7 hour flight, I landed at 8 AM and I had to grab a cab to drive directly from Heathrow to Pinewood. Then I sat in the makeup chair for 4 hours; took thirty minutes to put on the costume; and sat around for another five and a half hours before we got in front of the cameras. Director Tony Randel asked me if I needed any info and I said, “What’s my motivation?” (I can’t believe I asked him that!) He simply said, “You’re dead.” And boy, did I feel dead that first day! (This is all very normal, by the way. Hanging around waiting to get in front of the cameras is the name of the game in the acting biz.)
However, our first entrance from behind the walls of Channard’s office, walking into a miasma of dry ice and wind machines; seeing Tiffany trying to open the puzzle box in front of us; me sharpening my knife in anticipation of the carnage to come; and then Pinhead saying “No!” Wow! The atmosphere was fabulous, even though I knew I was on a film set and surrounded by actors and crew. It was pretty magical.
Did you ever expect that you’d become an iconic horror figure through being part of the Hellraiser series?
During the intervening years, I had no idea that the Hellraiser franchise had spawned six more films – before the most recent and notorious Revelations. I just toddled off to my next acting and presenting jobs. I only became aware of the global reach of the Hellraiser mythology when I attended my first convention in the United States in 2005. I couldn’t believe how many American Hellraiser fans there were! It’s truly a testament to Clive’s genius that he could create such a lasting and memorable mythology.
Has Clive Barker been a major influence on your own work since working with him on one of his most famous films?
I love Clive’s work – not only his writing, but his art as well. I love his writing because it’s sexy, muscular, descriptive and darkly humorous — and I suppose that’s his influence on me. I’m also influenced by writers such as Patricia Highsmith, Shirley Jackson, Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, Paul Kane, John Skipp and Ernest Hemingway.
Clive did directly influence my first short horror story, “Sister Cilice”, which appeared in the Hellbound Hearts anthology in 2009. All the stories in the anthology had to be based on Clive’s mythology that he created for his novella, The Hellbound Heart, the basis for the Hellraiser franchise. (“Sister Cilice” was the story of the metamorphosis of a sex-starved nun into a female cenobite.)
Apart from Hellraiser II, what has been your standout experience throughout your career in horror?
Writing The Venus Complex, I suppose. (Although personally, I feel that the book is more of a psychological crime novel than horror.) Other highlights are my short horror stories: “Sister Cilice”, “Uranophobia” (for the Phobophobias Anthology), “American Mutant: Hands of Dominion” (Mutation Nation), “Polyp” (The Mammoth Book of Body Horror), “A is for Alpdrück” (Demonologia Biblica), “Z is for Zulu Zombies” (Bestiarum Vocabulum and Fangoria’s Gorezone #29), the sequel to “Sister Cilice”, “The Cilicium Pandoric” (Gorezone #30) and “Botophobia” (to appear later this year in Phobophobias).
What’s next in the pipe-line?
I’m writing a screenplay based on my short story, “Zulu Zombies” and folks have been asking about a sequel to The Venus Complex. I’m also returning to acting for the first time in sixteen years in a new horror anthology film called Bad Medicine (written by Amazon #1 horror author Dave Jeffery and helmed by Bram Stoker Award Winning Director James Hart). I’ll be playing an unconventional therapist in that one and the script is one of the most innovative and intriguing ones I’ve read in years.
For more information on Barbie and her work, check out the links below.