“I hate the dark and I can’t watch horror movies, they scare the life out of me, so you definitely wouldn’t expect me to write horror stories,” Dr Bennett (pictured), an English lecturer and recent PhD graduate of Flinders University, said.
“But it’s different when you’re writing the story because you know what’s going to happen, so you don’t get swept up in the fear like when you’re watching a movie,” she said.
“And I guess I don’t write horror in the classic sense, like Stephen King, but the fear factor in my work involves normal people in horrifying situations.
“My stories are more unsettling and creepy than scary.”
Dr Bennett, who goes by the pen name Lisa L Hannett, has just won two accolades at the 2011 Aurealis Awards, held earlier this month in Sydney to recognise and promote the achievements of Australian science fiction, fantasy and horror writers.
She took out Best Collection for Bluegrass Symphony, 12 short stories set in a pseudo-American Gothic world, and was joint winner in the Best Horror Short Story category for The Short Go: a Future in Eight Seconds, a dark tale where the protagonist must compete in a bizarre rodeo to win his girlfriend’s hand in marriage.
Growing up in Canada, Dr Bennett studied Fine Arts (honours) at the University of Ottawa before moving to Adelaide in 2001 where she earned a second honours degree in English from Flinders, and eventually became a lecturer in the University’s English Department.
Her stories have appeared in such publications as Clarkesworld Magazine, Fantasy Magazine, Weird Tales and the Year’s Best Australian Fantasy and Horror 2010, and have won a number of prizes including three Aurealis Awards. Bluegrass Symphony has also recently been shortlisted for the Norma K Hemming Award, with the winner to be announced in June.
More recently, she earned a PhD in medieval Icelandic literature – “of all things”.
“In the 13th and 14th centuries the saga authors were interested in capturing their national history in literature and remembering their pagan ancestors even though they were Christian by the time they were writing these tales,” she said.
“So it was really interesting to find all these Christian scholars writing about very pagan things.”
Dr Bennett is now taking a semester off teaching to work on her first novel, The Familiar, funded through an Arts SA grant, while her second short story collection, Midnight and Moonshine (co-authored with Angela Slatter) will be published in November.
Another project on the cards is a “romp through the underworld” tentatively called Steam and a third novel will indulge Dr Bennett’s love of food, fairytales and history, following the adventures of a humble sous-chef in Feast.
“I became a writer because reading has been my favourite thing in the world since I was a little girl.
“As I got older I was introduced to weird fiction, which has really influenced my writing, and I love the short form because each story is perfectly contained and every word counts.”